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Facebook and Twitter Doomed?…Chicken Crap

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Blogging is about open discussion and the expression of opinion, so I hesitate to contradict someone’s blog; however, when someone titles their blog referencing ‘doomed’ with any aspect of Social Media it gets my attention. I am trying to help older professional adults understand Social Media and what it means to business and organizations like Rotary. Rotarians are sometimes hesitant to engage in Social Media tools like Facebook and Twitter because of irrational fears and a lack of good information.

Last week a blog was published by Gini Dietrich, who has the credentials to be knowledgeable in the field of Social Media and I do not call her experience or professionalism in to question; however her article called, “Creative Destruction: Why Facebook and Twitter May Be Doomed” requires a strong response.

Announcing the possible ‘doom’ two of the most significant tools in the digital world is clever because traditional media professionals and Social Media-phobs drool over anything that smacks of the end of the Internet and its place in civilized society. If I want to get a 10,000 hits on my blog this week, (and ongoing hits from Google searches,) including the words ‘doomed’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Internet’, and ‘Social Media’ would be one of the best tactics I could use. The problem is that the aside from pandering to those who remain firmly entrenched in 1989 thinking, Ms. Dietrich has little substance to support her dire prediction.

(Original blog by Gini Dietrich)

The blog focuses primarily on Facebook and the ongoing whining by non-Facebook users about privacy issues. Ms. Dietrich’s argument is essentially that the masses are ready to revolt and leave Facebook to ‘better’ networks that will be more restrictive to protect the user’s privacy. She goes on to suggest that Facebook and Twitter will be replaced just as they replaced earlier Social Media networking tools.

While every enterprise faces the same potential for creating its own demise, I strongly disagree that Facebook or Twitter may be ‘doomed’. Yes, users are a fickle group, but Friendster and MySpace were first-efforts in creating a comprehensive, open-networking Social Media tool and they had shortcomings that made them annoying (MySpace still does). It is true that Facebook and Twitter’s growth have been driven partly by capitalizing on the weaknesses of their predecessors; however, the major success of both was by bringing new people into the Social Media world with greater connectivity to quality users.

Dark clouds over Facebook?

Facebook attracted a larger segment of the population, including older users that suddenly became addicted to the connections that it provided. Today, even those who dislike Facebook have had a hard time detaching themselves from it because 540 million Social Media users cannot be ignored without sacrificing something significant. The problem is that another networking service may solve certain dissatisfiers of Facebook, but until everyone you know, or want to know moves to that service, you have to try to live in two or more networking worlds, and that is a pain. So a person has to weigh whether they are frustrated enough to add one more networking group to their attention span or live with Facebook.

Ms. Dietrich ignored the other possibility.  That instead of leaving, people may realize and accept that online privacy is a myth. I am constantly amazed by people who believe that they can be anonymous on the Internet. They think that a nondescript user name means that their identity is protected or that a comment they make will disappear the next day. I don’t disagree that there are some legitimate privacy issues and the FCC is proposing new regulations to address many of these issues, but a significant part of the problem is not a problem of Facebook’s creation, but of the gullibility of the user who thinks that they are ‘in disguise’ when they are on the web.

Regarding Twitter, Ms. Dietrich gave little reason for her ominous prediction. Yes, this year Twitter was having many problems with service failures and even I have said this is a problem that must be fixed, but in the 4th quarter I have experienced nothing but reliable service from Twitter.

Personally, I think I think most people have undervalued Twitter. It is perceived by many non-users as a network of celebrities and pointless dribble of ‘what-I-just-did’. However, the core of Twitter consists of people discussing cutting edge issues. It is the only service that brings together people around the world who are focused on one topic with searchable hashtags. If it can overcome its poor public image and be recognized for what it can do, it could jump from 100 million users to 500 million users in 6 months. It is more likely to be the center of business discussion than any other service out there. LinkedIn (started May 2003) is older than MySpace (started Aug. 2003) and it is has been leapfrogged by Twitter (started July 2006) with over twice as many users (41 million vs Twitter’s 98 million.)

The wanna-be replacements for Facebook and Twitter have one big problem.  Some of the very things that users say they want to protect them also restrict the connections that give Facebook and Twitter advantages in adding new users and making new connections.  If any networking service is doomed it is LinkedIn because it has such a complicated system to add new connections (How do you know this person?) that it renders itself irrelevant.

Yes, Facebook has made some stupid mistakes, but if everyone organization that made stupid mistakes was ‘doomed’ then Wal-Mart, Target, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Exxon, and thousands of others mega organizations are all ‘doomed’.

Will Facebook and Twitter be the giants in 2015?  I doubt it, but I don’t see any other Social Media tool that will challenge them in the next two years and is why my response to the suggestion of ‘doom’ is simply: Chicken Crap.

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Rotary@105: 7 Relationship types that affect membership retention (Part II)

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

NOTE: This article is a secondary article to
Relationships Typing: 3 factors that the affect quality and depth of friendship

As mentioned in the first part of this article, I have defined three factors that seem to determine the quality of my relationships. 1) Trust, 2) Common Interests and/or Experiences, 3) Equality.

By using a 21-point scale to rate each factor in various relationship types we can see how Trust (or the lack of), Common Interests and/or Experiences (or the lack of), and Equality (or the lack of) define the relationship. Below are seven types of benchmark relationships and how they might affect membership retention in a Rotary club.

Too much friendship?

The Star
We all have people who we look up to, but there are just a few people that we put on a pedestal. I see the Star relationship as one where the trust level is relatively high (+7 on a scale of -10 to +10) as well as the common interest level (+8 on a scale of -10 to +10), but we feel inferior (a -9 on a scale of -10 to +10) to this person. In this relationship the depth and quality of the relationship is usually shallow. These people are not close friends, but rather an admired acquaintance. A new member in a Rotary club might see the Club President as the Star.

The Mentor
The Mentor is a different version of the Star. The difference is that we trust the Mentor implicitly (+10) and we have a strong common interest (+9); however, we see ourselves as inferior (-6) to our Mentor. The Mentor has achieved a level of success that we hope reach and our relationship is based on a mutual effort to gain an equal level of success in the future. I think it is a mistake to believe that a Mentor relationship can be imposed. The only successful Mentor relationships I have observed are those that have occurred by a mutual agreement of both parties. In over nine years in Rotary have witnessed few successful Mentor relationships. When it does happen it is a win-win situation for both members, but the Mentor must be highly skilled and/or knowledgeable, a passionate person, and a great trainer. In addition, the ‘trainee’ must recognize the Mentor’s superior knowledge and have a desire to learn from him or her. If not, the relationship will fail.

A Partnership is not necessarily a friendship

The Partner
I see the Partner as a relationship seeking mutual benefit for both people, but without the level of trust of a Mentor relationship. In a Partner relationship the trust is conditional (0, not + or -) and the two people usually see the other as his or her  equal (0) or at least they have something of value that balances the relationship, but the common interest is high (+9). I would consider the Partner relationship to be a symbiotic or co-dependent relationship and while the relationship may seem to be a strong bond, the slightest feeling of inequality or betrayal can end the relationship. In Part I of this series I mentioned that the employer/employee relationship might be a partnership, but I also believe that some marriages can start out, or devolve into Partner type relationships. In a Rotary club a member who has established mostly Partner relationships with other members is likely to have no deep attachment to the club and likely to leave.

The Friend
Of all relationships, I think a Friend is the hardest to achieve. A quality friendship involves a high level of trust (+9) and a significant level of common interests and/or experiences (+6), but also a genuine feeling of equality (0) must exist. The trust and equality factors for a friendship are difficult for most people to offer to another person. It is a special relationship and one to be highly valued, but once achieved it is a strong bond that lasts over time and distance. If every member were to have only one other true ‘Friend’ in his or her club most members would never consider leaving.

The Rival or Competitor
A rival is a relationship, even though we usually don’t think of it as one. It is a relationship based on mistrust (-8) of another person and somewhat ironically, a relationship that includes a high level of common interests (+8). I think that while we may feel we are superior to our rival that the truth is that we are afraid that we are not, thus I give an equality rating of (+3) to a Rival relationship. The Rival relationship is one of the worst possible relationships that could develop in a Rotary club. Sooner or later the club is going to be drawn into the conflict or one or more members will leave because of it. Ironically, it is the high level of common interest that seems to set up the Rival/Competitor situation. Without the envy or jealousy caused by the common interest both people would probably ignore each other.

Common Interest can enhance a relationship, or create conflict

The Subordinate or Submissive
Note that with the Subordinate relationship I am talking about someone who sees another person as their subordinate or submissive. This can be an employer/employee type relationship, but it is any relationship where a person sees him/herself as superior (+10) to another person. The trust level is relatively high (+5) as the person with the bigger ego expects the subordinate to obey their wishes and typically there is somewhat of a common interest (+3), but not necessarily a significant level of commonality. The big problem I have seen with this type of relationship is that the target of this attitude may not feel that they should be the subordinate. In a Rotary club it is surprising easy for a club leader to see other club members as their subordinate. Nothing creates a false sense of power like a title and in a volunteer organization titles are meant to assign responsibility, not authority, but not everyone understands that concept.

The Alien or Blank
It seems somewhat pointless to talk about the lack of a relationship as a type of relationship, but the I find it interesting to understand that some people just don’t show up on our relationship radar even though we may see them on a regular basis. I didn’t fully understand this until I was in Rotary, but after a few years in a club you learn the some people can disappear in plain sight. I feel the lack of a relationship, when there realistically should be is a type of relationship and I refer to it as an Alien or Blank relationship.

The quality of Friendship
I would not argue the point that it takes two to make or break a relationship; however, I would argue that the quality and depth of any relationship is determined largely by our own attitudes, in concert with the way the other person treats us. Understanding the factors that influence a relationship is the first step to making positive changes. In a Rotary club, failing to recognize that not all relationships are constructive can have major consequences on membership retention.

In Part I of this series I talked about a facilitator at a meeting who didn’t want to dilute his ‘friendships’ with people in the Social Media. My response to him is this: friendship is more about what we bring to the table and not the method of connection. The Social Media is not a threat to good friendships, just a different way to engage in them.

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Relationship Typing: 3 factors that affect quality and depth of friendship (Part I)

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Several weeks ago I was at a Rotary District Leadership training meeting and I made a comment that the Social Media tools like Facebook and Twitter allow us to have more friends and more connections to other people. I was shocked into silence when one of the facilitators said that he didn’t want that. He explained that his friends were those very close, very special people that he choose to be friends with, and that he didn’t want to dilute his social circle with people from the Social Media.

It was an interesting point and it caused me to start thinking about the quality and depth of the relationships of the people around me. In several decades of business, procurement of two bachelor’s degrees, and almost a decade in Rotary I have learned that not everyone is my ‘friend’ even though I may have frequent contact with them. All of us have people who are important to us and we all have people who we just don’t like, but until now I hadn’t focused on the factors that seem to define my relationships.

Understanding what shapes my attitude is a significant step towards taking an active role in building better and less conflictive relationships with the people around me. For this reason I wanted to explore what determines what type of relationship we have with another person.

I have come up with three factors that seem to determine the quality of my relationships. 1) Trust, 2) Common Interests and/or Experiences, 3) Equality.

Trust, Common Interest, and Equality

The trust factor seems obvious, but I find this to be a complex issue. Trust can be absolute, non-existent, or conditional. For example, I would propose that many employer/employee relationships are based on a conditional trust where both parties are on the constant guard of the other person betraying his or her trust.

The common interest and/or experiences factor may also seem obvious; however, sometimes common interests or experiences can create feelings of jealousy, envy, rivalry, or disgust. Just because two people have a lot in common doesn’t result in a bond of appreciation.

The final factor is not as obvious. My experience is that the level of equality felt by a person is a significant factor in determining the quality and depth of a relationship. In an organization of volunteers like a Rotary club we often mistakenly believe that everyone is equal, but my experience has been that the relationships that form in a typical Rotary club are often shaped, at least in part, by one person’s feeling of superiority over another.

Using these three factors I have been able to better define the quality and depth of my relationships. Because each of  these factors have a positive and negative component, I use an 21-point scale (-10, -9, -8, … -1, 0, +1, … +8, +9, +10) to score their significance. For example a Relationship Type might be low in trust (-7), high in common interest (+8), and neutral in equality (0). While all relationships reflect a continuum of these factors I have defined seven benchmark relationship types and have scored each factor on the 21-point scale.

In part two of this article I will define the seven relationship types and their scoring. I also will discuss how the relationship type might impact membership retention in a Rotary club.

Click on the link below for the continuing article
Rotary@105: Relationship types affect membership retention

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Your Privacy Rights on the Internet: Read before you write.

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

I have had several discussions with people who have a fear of the Internet and Social Media tools. The common issue that arises is regarding privacy, which to me is an interesting concern. Being concerned that you’re giving up your privacy if you use the Internet is, to me, a Homer Simpson moment.

I’m not sure where anyone got the idea that writing something and sending it out over a public system of servers, visible to almost anyone, and recorded for all time would be private, but for those of you who have that impression, let me read you your rights:

Your Right to Privacy on the Internet

  • You have a right to stay silent.
  • You have a right to not participate in Internet/online activities.
  • You have a right to consult an attorney before you participate in any Internet/online activities.
  • You have the right to stay in your house, block up the windows and never go out into public.
  • If you choose to participate in any Internet/online activities, anything you say can and will:
    • be considered a reflection of your public image
    • be available for anyone in the world to access
    • be recorded for the remainder history of the civilized world
    • be used against you now, or in the future
  • If you choose to NOT participate that will NOT prevent:
    • People from talking about you on the Internet
    • People using your image for almost any purpose
The Internet, and Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn allow people to communicate in a way we’ve never been able to communicate before. It is not intended for private discussions, but it is an open forum. That makes some people uncomfortable, and while I understand that, I also have to wonder why people have a need to say something they are not willing to say publicly?

There is still a time and place for a personal, one-to-one conversation to discuss matters between the two people, but isn’t that better to be done in person? Privacy is not what one should expect when using the Internet, but it is the place for ideas and concepts to be discussed in an open environment that values the input of all. Yes, sometimes the stupid people have louder voices and win the day, but at some point people will look back and learn who was behaving stupidly and who was really correct.

Here are four things I try to keep in mind when participating in online activities:

  1. Sometimes I’m going to say something stupid. I’m human and I will have to buck up and take responsibility for it.
  2. Sometimes people are going to ridicule what I have to say. That doesn’t mean they are correct and it may be a reflection of their poor judgement, not mine.
  3. By participating I will learn more than I could if I did not participate. Sometimes the lesson will be difficult, but that will usually mean I will learn more.
  4. Social Media is not the alpha and omega of life, but it is one of the most powerful communication tools ever conceived.
Now you have been read your rights… you can take it from here.

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Social Media 3Q 2010 Update: Who Uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & MySpace:

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

The third quarter 2010 demographics of Social Media users according to Google’s Adplanner services has a few surprises. Facebook actually dropped from 550 to 540 million users in the third quarter, and Facebook users over age 54 dropped from 16% to 10% in the last six months. Based on the data from the 2nd and 3rd quarters there is a significant slowing in the growth of the major Social Media tools.

Among the numbers are the interesting age group distributions of each of the networking sites. The data gives important clues of what each site is being used for in addition to who is using it.

Facebook’s Fire Cools
No one can dispute Facebook’s impact on the world. It is BIG, and with millions of posts and interactions each day, the influence of its users is the envy of every marketing professional. Traditional media professional and other old people will be tempted to look at the 3rd quarter data and declare that the Social Media ‘fad’ is over and on the decline. That would be a statement of ignorance.

Facebook 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

Facebook’s growth could not continue indefinitely and its amazing growth in users from 2008 to the start of 2010 was being fueled by a viral exploration of a new media that allowed people to connect in a way they never had before. Now that exploration has calmed and I believe we are seeing the coming of age of Social Media.

The drop of 10 million users during the third quarter is only significant in that it shows a leveling off of the growth. The average time on the site is over 23 minutes, which is much longer than the other three major U.S. Social Media tools (MySpace 14:40 mins., Twitter 13:10 mins., LinkedIn 9:50 mins.) That is important as more time spent means more interaction and more influence by users and advertisers.

Facebook reaches almost 57% of the people in the United States (35% worldwide) which is a staggering statistic. If USA Today could reach 57% of Americans (without giving the newspaper away to every hotel guest) and know that the readers were spending over 23 minutes looking at their paper they would probably be the only newspaper in the United States… and mega rich. As of March 2010, USA Today has a circulation of only 1.8 million compared to Facebook’s over 65 million visitors (based on cookies.)

3rdQ Facebook Users by Age

1stQ Facebook Users by Age

One statistic that keeps bouncing around in the Social Media world is that “women over 55 is the fastest growing group of Facebook users.” That it is old data. While the over 55 group had climbed to 16% at the end of March 2010, it is now the fastest shrinking age group and Facebook users under 18 years old have been the fastest growing group during the last six months.

Finally, 57% of the Facebook users are women, which is about the same as six months ago. That seems to confirm that Facebook is about ‘social’ networking and making personal connections. Facebook continues to be the place where buying decisions are influenced through small group interactions. Business and Marketing people will find that if they try to manipulate these discussions it will eventually backfire on them. Facebook is where business should LISTEN, not talk.

Twitter 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

Twitter Continues to Pause
The biggest surprise in the 3rd Quarter with Twitter was that it did not break the 100 million user mark. At the end of the 2nd Quarter it was at 96 million users, which was up by 16 million from the 1st Quarter. However, Twitter only grew by 2 million and now stands at 98 million users.

Twitter’s daily visits have leveled off for the last six months, and some might see this as an ominous sign for the hyper-fast post Social Media tool; however, this is deceiving as many Twitter users, (like myself,) don’t go to the Twitter site to use the tool, but rather use an application, like TweetDeck, to interact on the site. Thus the visit count would not be recorded as a site visit.

Twitter’s lack of significant growth in the number of users may be do to a continued lack of understanding of the value of the Tweet world and a period of constant ‘Fail Whales’ in the 2nd Quarter and early 3rd Quarter. The service has seemed to address the major problems in system overloads, but lately has had a return of a few service interruptions in the past few weeks. Obviously, if Twitter continues to have problems it won’t be able to survive in an environment where reliability is oxygen to users.

As for the lack of understanding of the value of Twitter, the service will struggle to grow until people can learn that the impact of Twitter is not in the posts, but the conversations and the URL links to other blogs and webpages. Twitter is like Headline News for new ideas and concepts. Often posts reveal a new approach or cutting-edge information that won’t be in the traditional public arena for months. That is why I still see Twitter growing if they can rid themselves of service interruptions.

3rdQ 2010 Twitter users by Age

1stQ 2010 Twitter users by Age

One interesting development in the latest data is the shift in the age demographics. Twitter seems to have made a shift to younger adults. The 18-34 age group is up by 16%, while the 35-64 age group is down by 9% from six months ago. Also, teenagers (under 18) have dropped by 6% since the 1st quarter and now make up only 4% of all Twitter users. The apparent dislike for Twitter among teenagers is a clear age defining characteristic. I have had two separate teenagers say to me “You’re not on Twitter, are you!?”

Apparently Twitter gives you cooties. Who knew?

MySpace Back From the Brink?
I have predicted the end of MySpace for sometime, but in the 3rd quarter it did something bizarre … it gained users. It had dropped 14 million users from the 1st to the 2nd quarter and then it gained one million users back in the 3rd quarter. MySpace now stands at 67 million users. Not earth-shaking, but certainly noteworthy. LinkedIn would sacrifice several interns to have that many users. MySpace also has more women. Female users consist of 64% of the MySpace population.

MySpace 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

The reason? Well, no other major Social Media tool lets you search by gender … and age … and height … and race … and body type … and sexual orientation … are you getting the picture? MySpace is a social dating site as much as anything else and lonely people make up a lot of our world’s population. So maybe MySpace has found its niche as a romance network and that will stop the freefall of the past two quarters.

3Q 2010 MySpace users by Age

3rdQ 2010 MySpace users by Age

Yes, there are more teenagers on this site than most (14%), but 63% of the users are between 18 and 44 years old. One caveat. MySpace has limited the ‘find-a-friend’ search function to give the results of people age 18 and over. That is a smart move to protect minors; however, some teenagers have simply listed themselves as an age of 18 or older to circumvent the limitation. I caught a few teenagers that list themselves as 19, but on their main page description they indicate their real age. This is likely why the number of ‘under 18′ users have dropped from 34% to 14% in six months.

LinkedIn Drifting in Niche
The 3rd quarter statistics show that despite millions of people looking work, the business person to business person website of LinkedIn is not growing. It is at 41 million,
which is actually higher than the end of 2nd quarter, but the same as the end of the 1st quarter.

LinkedIn 3rdQ DAILY visits

Like MySpace, LinkedIn has found its niche. Essentially, LinkedIn is a business-oriented website that provides a job exchange service. Most users are using the networking website as their digital résumé in order to attract job offers. In the Tom Peters ‘Re-Imagine’ business world where branding is a key element of survival, LinkedIn is Mecca for self-promotion.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn is not as successful as Facebook and Twitter in two-way interaction. Both of those Social Media tools do not have as much as of an ‘agenda’ by individual users as LinkedIn. Users of the business-oriented network seem to spend more time professing what they know and don’t spend as much time listening to others. This is the traditional media model of one-way communication, which is the style of communication that Social Media has displaced. For some, the self-promotion run amuck style of some LinkedIn users is a turn off that may hurt the site in the long run.

3Q 2010 LinkedIn user by Age

1stQ 2010 LinkedIn users by Age

It will be interesting to see how LinkedIn will fare as the business-caused Recession of 2007-09 eases and people are employed again. LinkedIn could be a key to a sudden labor shortage in 2012 as those companies with the best opportunities will be able to target and recruit candidates through LinkedIn, leaving other employers to either compete or settle for what’s left over.

Age and gender on LinkedIn reinforce the business-world orientation as more males (57%) are users and the distribution of the age groups reflects the working world. Interestingly, while LinkedIn still has more users over 54 years old (15%), this is 7% drop from the 1st quarter. That is offset by an 8% jump of the 24-34 year old users in the last six months.

4th Quarter Predictions?
I believe we are seeing a refinement of each of the big four Social Media tools. Facebook has become the social sharing network, Twitter is the thought-provoking, learning network, MySpace is the social relationship network, and LinkedIn the branding and résumé network. The demographics are settling in to reinforce the existing nature of each of the networks. Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn will likely end 2010 about where they are now unless something viral either cause a rush of new users, or sends people running away. Twitter still has potential significant growth, but I don’t see that happening in the 4th quarter.

The volatility of the Social Media networks have made it difficult to understand what they will eventually represent in our world; however, now that there seems to be a calming of the major networks, the value and purpose is becoming clearer. That will allow the big four to lock in their market; however, it will also open the door for other networks to identify areas of opportunities and weakness. My prediction is that 2011 will be the entrenchment of the Social Media, followed by more competition by other networks seeking to improve or offer alternatives to the established services.

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Dear Business Person: It is 2010. Please update your brain.

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Recently I listened to a presentation on how to network to increase referrals of potential customers. The speaker made her living by teaching people how to do this, so there is no doubt she knew her subject. Personally, I agree that face-to-face networking skills are critical if you are going to be in business, especially if you have direct customer contact.

However, she quoted statistics from a 2002 study done by the Chamber of Commerce on referral effectiveness based on the method of contact. 2002. That is where she lost me.

How far back is 2002? In 2002, the Department of Justice announced it was going to investigate Enron, the UN Security Council froze the assets of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, The US Secretary of Energy declared Yucca Mountain, Nevada to be a suitable nuclear waste depository, the Space Shuttle Columbia completed a mission to update the Hubble Space Telescope…it’s last before it would be destroyed on re-entry from it’s next mission in 2003, the United States led coalition invaded Afghanistan, A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture, United Airlines and WorldCom filed for bankruptcy, Congress approved a resolution to go to war with Iraq, and President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security.

Columbia Space Shuttle Breakup in 2003

To some, it may seem like 2002 was yesterday, but when discussing a topic on how business referrals are made in 2010, quoting data from a single, eight year-old study makes me question the relevancy of any of the information provided. Note that the Internet was only eleven years old in 2002. The first Social Media site, Friendster was started in 2002. It wasn’t until 2003, that the more known sites of LinkedIn (May) and MySpace (August) were introduced. Facebook didn’t come on-line until February 2004, YouTube began a year later, and Twitter didn’t start until July 15, 2006.

The world of communication and business have changed dramatically in the past 36 months, let alone the changes over the past eight years. To discuss ‘networking’ from a perspective of the world in 2002 is to be in Denial* of the world of 2010. While ‘more experienced’ business people scoff at “these young people” and their Social Media, the reality is that referrals are being replaced by customer recommendations read off of blogs and other Internet sources. ‘Experienced’ business people can be angry, condescending, and ignorant all they want about the impact of Social Media on business…but it won’t change what has happened. Many people blame government regulation for business failures, but more businesses fail because of outdated business minds and practices than anything other cause and we are neck-deep in 2002 business thinking.

(*See Rotary@105: Grieving Change)

Face-to-face networking is important, but compare the number of face-to-face interactions/connections that a person can make in a day with the number of interactions/connections that can be made through blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in an hour, and it becomes apparent that dismissing the power of Social Media makes a business person appear uninformed and outdated…sort of like a man who wears shorts, sandals…and black socks. That analogy may not make sense to some people, but then again, those people probably aren’t reading this blog…or any others.

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Rotary@105: Grieving Change

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

On October 16th, our Rotary District (5190) will hold the second annual Public Relations (PR) seminar. It is a difficult topic because PR is a vital component to all aspects of Club operations, especially Membership recruitment and retention; however, for very ‘human’ reasons many members/clubs may not ready to listen to many of the key concepts because they are not ready to face the reality of the current situation.

To understand the resistance to the topic I need to refer to the 1969 book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying and her model of the grieving process. Her book became a major work in the fields of psychology and counseling for decades and while many experts now reject the idea of ‘stages’ of grieving, her model serves to remind us that people are influenced by their emotional state and some information will not be easily accepted when change intersects with tradition.

On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

In the book, Kübler-Ross proposes that the grieving process involves five stages that help us recover from personal crisis back to a more balanced life where the incident or loss does not rule our lives and influence our decision-making. The stages are: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression, and finally, 5) Acceptance.

So what is happening in Rotary that would cause a member or a club to be in crisis? Two issues come to mind.

Membership in Crisis
First, Rotary has been battling a significant membership issue for almost 15 years. For example, in 2005, Rotary Zone 23 (now re-zoned as Zone 25) had 568 clubs consisting of 33,921 members and five years later (2009) Zone 23 consisted of 33,304 members in 588 clubs.  While the number of clubs had increased by 20, total membership had decreased by over 600 people. This is only about a two percent loss over five years; however, the problem is that, 1) this has been a consistent trend for most of the last 15 years, and 2) every Rotary International President for the last nine years has pushed for increased membership as part of the key programs for his year.

The facts are simple: Rotary is bleeding membership and clubs are getting smaller (in Zone 23, an average of 3 members smaller over five years.) In seven years Rotary has brought in 1.2 million members…and lost 1.2 million members. Membership in North America, and many other western countries is on the decline. If current trends continue, over the next 15 to 20 years many community Rotary clubs will shrink until they are no longer relevant and then disband. Many small clubs are already facing this problem today and have less than five years to solve their membership crisis.

A New Business World
The second issue is external to the Rotary club. Business and communication is undergoing a rapid change and all the rules are changing. The Internet and, in particular, Social Media have challenged how business operates in a world where one person can be heard by millions, and if that person is talking about your product or service you have to be plugged in and listening or be lost in ignorance of what your customers and potential customers know about you. This new world demands personal involvement, yet many people (especially older business people) don’t want to be forced to participate in Social Media tools that put them and their company up for public scrutiny. There is a growing division between older professionals that tend to reject Social Media tools and younger professionals that tend to accept them. Guess in which category most Rotarians fit?

Action Obstructed by Grieving
Public Relations offers potential solutions to both issues. By becoming aware of the Club’s public image (how non-members perceive Rotary) the members can adapt their PR plan to maximize the value of the club projects and programs to help non-members understand the purpose and scope of Rotary. Members can also be aware of behaviors and information that reinforce negative stereotypes that non-members may have about Rotary, then avoid situations that might damage the reputation of the club. P
R can also help members understand and adapt to the Social Media tools and use them to the best advantage for the club…and their business.

The problem is that discussion of these solutions is premature when someone is grieving. It is akin to telling the man who just lost his wife that, “there are plenty of fish in the ocean.” The combination of scrambling to understand a new business environment while facing a slow bleed of Rotary club members has many Rotarians in the one of the stages of grieving.

For some it is the first stage: Denial:

Stages of Coping with Loss

“There is no membership crisis. The world is the same today as it always has been. Our club is fine, we’ve been around for decades and we will continue to be here for decades to come.”

For others it is Anger:

“This is our club! We don’t need to change, if someone wants to belong to our club they need to change to our way of doing things! Don’t tell me what to do, I’ve been around a lot longer than you! Most of our members aren’t even on Facebook!”

For some it is Bargaining:

“We need QUALITY members, not more members. What help are we going to get to make these changes? How do you know this will work? How do I know this is not just a waste of time?”

And for some it is Depression:

“….”

Of all of the stages, a club should fear depression the most. Apathy and membership are never good combinations; however, for some members who are overwhelmed by change, the depression over the issues will open the door for them to quietly leave Rotary. In some cases, a member who is entrenched in tradition may not be able to accept change and leaving Rotary is the only option, but hopefully we can be aware that grieving change is part of the process and present the message in a way that will help members to the final stage of grieving, Acceptance.

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