The story behind how I gained interest in Social Media was fairly detailed – a combinations of where I worked, what I did for a living and the influential people in my life. So complex, in fact, that I wrote an entire post on How I got interested in Social Media. Shel passed on additional questions that are just as important, so I want to answer those ones in this follow up.
2. What social media tools do you use?
3. How has social media change your business and/or your life?
I see quite a few articles on how Social Media is wasting our time. These articles are so narrow in their view of networking and how much it enables us to become more productive. Business is primarily done through relationships… Social media allows us to connect with people easier than we ever have in the past.
Today I was looking for a more affordable outbound fax service for my company. I searched Del.icio.us and found JBlast. Next, I'm looking for a regional resource for dropping phone lines in our new office space – I will post it as a question on LinkedIn. The alternative is to take time searching the net, calling local businesses, etc. We waste so much time without the right connections! Remember the days when we couldn't search for things on the Internet? I do! It was excruciating.
As for my life, it's had an incredible effect. I found my most recent job through my blog and networking with local professionals on Social Media, I speak in regional conferences on the topic and I'm trying to pry myself from work long enough to really help out some regional non-profits.
4. Tell me about social media and the Indianapolis Colts. Do you really feel that social media will help them win a Superbowl?
The Indianapolis Colts will be the first to tell you that The Twelfth Man helps to win every game. The Twelfth man refers to the fan, the person off the field with the biggest impact on the game. I've been to the RCA Dome and seen a couple of games and it's incredible the noise and energy a fan brings to a game! Think about your own life for a moment and remember a time that someone believed in you. It provides you with the will to succeed, doesn't it? Now imagine an entire region backing you up! How about those fans beyond the local region?
The Colts have over a million people visiting their website. The majority of them don't even live here in Indianapolis! They even have fans overseas who follow every game and participate in their site non-stop. The question began to be asked, how can the team connect with each fan better and how can those fans connect with each other better? A Social Network was the answer. Coach Dungy is now blogging! Imagine… an NFL coach with a direct relationship to a team's fans.
As with any professional sports team, the Colts realize that great seasons come and go. Unfortunately, some fans come and go with those seasons. The Colts are a business as well as a team and they need to do a great job to ensure that they show fans appreciation. In other businesses, this is known as Customer Loyalty. The Colts want to stay connected to their fans so that when times are rough the fans are still there. Thanks to all of the work that organization is doing, they will be!
5. Tell me about social media in the food and restaurant industry. How much is it used? How could it be better used?
The Food and Restaurant industry is an industry with the tightest margins you can imagine. While, as a country, we are continuing to eat out more often, restaurants are getting built left and right… and subsequently going out of business. Anyone who is a regular with a company always appreciates when you walk in the door and someone says, “Hi Doug!”. Online, this is no different. Restaurants with a strong online presence are seeing 20% to 30% growth in take-out and delivery. Wouldn't it be nice if they remembered your last order or your favorite plate or your allergy to peanuts?
Do you ever wonder who it is that's cooking that food for you? I sure do! Why do you think Chefs in expensive restaurants are so visible? It's the social connection with the patron that matters, not always the food. Eating is a social engagement, not a physical engagement – and restaurants are missing out when they are not reaching out to their patrons online. Unfortunately, because of the margins many people don't want to get into this industry. I think the folks that do, though, have a genuine product and, if used, they will reap the benefits!
We'll get there on the B2C side of the business. Food lovers are already doing their own part. Check out All Recipes, a social network for everyday folks. And folks have posted and asked why there isn't a Restaurant social network out there.
6. You seem to have become a Heartlands voice for social media. Can you tell me how people and businesses are using it in general terms? What tools are they using?
The Heartland is an amazing place with great, hard-working people. Technology is always viewed as a tool but not always the solution here. Development companies here in Indianapolis build a lot of tools… the developers build some hardcore applications that are a backbone of several industries. Where silicon valley is always looking for the ‘next idea', people here are concerned with making existing businesses work.
As a result, Social Media is still in its infancy. Adults tend to look at these tools as toys. I have friends that still won't IM me because that's the kind of stuff their kids do. Our Civic and Commerce industries are quite behind in any technology, albeit Social Media. Our Universities are the best in the country but we lose our Graduates to other states because our business community won't open its eyes to things like Social Media as a viable business solution.
We will change, and there are some folks here in the community that will drive that change. I'm not sure that I'm the voice, but I sure will continue to try. There's no reason why we shouldn't be competing with Seattle and San Jose given the fantastic schools and incredible cost of living we have here!
7. Let's talk about business in general. Are businesses small or large, using social media in the Midwest? To what extent?
Perhaps the best illustration of using Technology is friend Roger Williams with the Emergent Leadership Institute here in Indianapolis. Roger has buried himself in Facebook to connect with regional youth.
The Emergent Leadership Institute (ELI) engages Indianapolis area young people in becoming stakeholders in our community through Help Indy Online (HIO) and Community Access Point (CAP) programs. I get eVites from Roger every week… he must run at a hundred miles an hour. I look forward to helping him much more in the future.
Pat and I also launched I Choose Indy!, a site where regional citizens and leaders can write, in their own words, about why they love central Indiana. Access to the site is open and has never been abused. The stories are fantastic – and they really point to what's so fantastic about Indy. We wish we could spend much more time on the site – but it's neat to see folks randomly post from time to time. It's very Indiana!
Aside from The indianapolis Colts, the regional newspaper is beginning to see the value in Social Media as well. Check out IndyMoms, a fantastic site that the regional Newspaper runs that thrives on user generated content. I wish some other media outlets would catch on! We've got a great alternative newspaper here in town and a couple fantastic business outlets (broadcast and print). I believe they can significantly improve their penetration through Social Media.
NOTE: I'll try to follow up on the last few questions tomorrow night!