20 January 2015

What business are you in?

Wanna buy some content, Mr?
Sometimes I feel like a frustrated character from a John Irving novel. No, not one of the bears from his early works (even though my children might think I'm a bit bear-like when I'm pissed off). No, not the tortured T.S. Garp.

No, sometimes I feel like the migrant farm worker Arthur Rose from "The Cider House Rules". In his efforts, as crew foreman, to keep his people focused on picking apples, he sometimes yells, "What business do you think you're in?" The correct answer is, of course, "the apple business."

When people get all prissy about being involved in digital media, especially social media, I just want to ask, "What business are you in?" And many people seem to have no idea that the right answer is "the digital media business".

Yes, I get it. Spending time on Facebook can make you feel "unclean." And, indeed, overexposure to LinkedIn, Instragram, and the blogosphere (or whatever the monkey on your back/guilty pleasure might be) can be harmful to your health. Well... I don't mean to break this to you too rudely, but... it's 2015. And being involved in certain activities makes digital media a necessity.

Take for example -- if you are an employee -- your workplace. The multinational where I work launched an internal, cross-border social network about three years ago. It almost tanked because of cultural resistance. I saw possibilities in launching a blog on business writing, a subject I run training sessions in. I'd asked people if they'd seen my blog. I got a shocking number of responses to the effect that it wasn't worth their time to play around on a company social network. What is it good for?

Hello? What business are you in? We're talking about corporate lawyers and management consultants and tax advisers. If this isn't the information business, what is? I was flabbergasted that my dear colleagues didn't see the value in getting to know people and finding out what they are doing. They didn't "get" the power of making connections all over the globe that will extend their reach and their potential to draw on resources when they need them. And this is just scratching the surface of what a social network can mean to this crowd. What business are these people in? They're in the digital media business.

I have friends who arrange martial arts workshops and promote them on Facebook with posters and videos. What business are they in? They're in the digital media business. They use social networks for business.

I have friends who write books and publish them as ebooks. This is an introverted crowd that can be especially wary of the contagion of social media. What business are they in? They're in the digital media business. They should realize that if they want to sell books, they're not going to be promoted big-time by a publisher unless they're the next Stephen King. Until they get their first best seller (or once they realize they write niche books for a crowd that has to be reached by clever means), they should be blogging to cultivate an audience for the kind of material they produce, and interacting on social media with groups of people who are interested in the subject they write about.

I can write about this so authoritatively because I am "a man of certain years" who is a bit wary of the digital onslaught. I have thought of getting off of Facebook several times. But I've realized that because I promote my own workshops and sometimes sell my writing... well... I'm in the digital media business. And once you realize that, you shouldn't dabble in it, you should jump in with both feet and make the most of it.



Alexander Svitych said...

Once in a while I have discussions (or rather arguments) with my colleagues that despite all their drawbacks social networks are very powerful. They are part of reality, and educated men should go hand in hand with time. Rejecting Facebook is like wishing to stay in the 20th century forever.

I really liked this part, I think you nailed down the essence here: "They didn't "get" the power of making connections all over the globe that will extend their reach and their potential to draw on resources when they need them."

Daniel said...

Interesting blog! Something similar happened when social media was introduced in my company as well. However, the management was very persistent, and also puts a lot of resources on constant improvements and after one and a half years I can say it really works.

Theo Huffman said...

Well, it eventually coughed to life in our network as well. But there is also still a substantial percentage of Neanderthals who don't see any point in participating in an internal social media network.