Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Matchmaking

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Let’s talk about arranged marriages. OK, not quite – but have you ever thought about how matchmaking can apply to business? Read on…

In an introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. The Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

In a second post, we discussed the opportunity of Curation (filtering and delivering information) in the world of new intermediation. Today, let’s look at another manifestation of the new intermediation: Matchmaking.

A matchmaker is a key individual, platform, or company that has deep connections with a pool of people/providers, and then brings the right (targeted) resource to a client with a business or personal need.

Think of what recruiters (headhunters) do. It’s that kind of intermediation, but scaled in new ways and applied to other business problems beyond staffing.

My Impactiviti business (identifying optimal outsource vendors for my pharma clients looking for training/marketing suppliers) is one example of business matchmaking (see graphic here).

In Kansas City, my friend George Weyrauch has launched Rock Creative to provide a very similar service for creative types.

Another example familiar to many is HARO (Help A Reporter Out), the news/resource matching service launched by Peter Shankman. Reporters have always had a need to find subject matter experts. Many people who could be valuable resources are invisible to media types. So, HARO was born – a daily e-mail service where journalists looking for sources post what they need, and targeted individuals respond. Simple, brilliant matchmaking. And Peter is smarter than me, because HARO is fed-by-both-sides e-model that was able to be increasingly automated. I’m not jealous. I’m really not. OK, I’m jealous.

IntermediationHARO

(on a side note, HARO was bought by Vocus a year or two back. Creating a winning intermediation service can have quite a significant ROI!)

Our world of business has always run smoother because of intermediaries. There are bridges that need to be built – today, and tomorrow. Gaps are everywhere. Intermediaries see them, and create beneficial connections<<–(click to tweet this)

Many roles, of course, have been disintermediated through technology advancements. But other, digitally-fueled models have arisen. Sometimes, they are ePlatforms, like Match.com and eHarmony (where “matchmaking” is not a metaphor, but is the whole point!) Do you know of other matchmaking business approaches that you’ve seen recently enabled in our networked world? Do share in the comments!

Transcendent Communications

This is a ramble based on a thought in the shower this morning - you know how that goes, right? I’m not even sure what station this train of thought is going to end up in. Here goes…

Why has digital social media so riveted our attention? It’s an evolutionary advance on a pre-existing massive trend – the desire to communicate without the barriers of time, geography, filtering, culture, and language.

Books enabled the communicating of ideas way outside of the physical sphere, and even time frame, of the writer’s direct influence. What once would have been spoken around a campfire or in a small gathering can now echo down through generations.

Radio transcended geography. Recorded audio broke the limits of geography and time.

Television added the visual element, and some of what was communicated through the eye-gate leapt over cultural and linguistic barriers.

Social media broke down the filters between one-to-one communication. Digital audio, video, and writing enable all barriers to come down, though linguistic and cultural elements are still problematic to a degree. Communication can be both real-time and archived.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to computing, we see a parallel trend toward natural and frictionless interface – we’ll slowly but surely abandon the very artificial keyboard and mouse for the more natural elements of voice and gesture. Siri and Kinect are glimpses. In 10 years, we will laugh hysterically at our current digital/human interfaces.

So what? Well, here’s a couple so-what’s to think about:

  1. Digital social media as we have experienced it for the past few years is not some isolated or uniquely amazing thing. It’s part of an inevitable current of communication evolution. And it cannot be static because the current has been rapidly flowing for centuries in one direction (toward communication without the barriers of time, geography, filtering, culture, and language).
  2. We can opt out of participation in specific elements of digitally-fueled communications, but we can’t avoid the direction of the current.
  3. Any business approach based on the above inexorable trends stands a far better chance of long-term success than tweaking some existing business model that tries to maintain the status quo or go upstream against the current.

A lot of loose ends here, but I’ll just hit publish and ask what you think (feel free to wax eloquent in the comments with your thoughts).

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Open Doors

When you start talking about social media in the business world, you quickly begin to bump into the ROI question (and if you do, get the insight you’ll need from Olivier Blanchard and buy his book, Social Media ROI).

ROI matters. But for many individuals, consultants, entrepreneurs, small businesses – and yes, even larger businesses – that’s not the only measure of value. There’s another factor to weigh in the balance.

Is this activity likely to produce new opportunities? Potential referrals? Broader awareness? Open doors?

Much of what I – and many others – do via social networking is driven by this long-term view, which is based, not on immediate hard returns of dollars-tied-to-specific-efforts, but by what we might call natural human and marketing principles.

Building deeper human bonds with quality people will, in ways both direct and indirect, lead to increased business opportunities. Do you believe this? I do. And I think it’s true for the solopreneur as well as the biggest brand. That means networking – whether the digital/social variety, or good old-fashioned pressing the flesh (note: I believe in both, together).

An example from my own experience: #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Very little direct revenue has come to the co-hosts (Lisa Petrilli and me) for all the time and effort we’ve put in. HOWEVER – the expansion of our networks, the quality contacts with some very influential people, the collaborations that have occurred, not only for us, but among others in the community – these are worthwhile returns, and the future opportunities yet to come as a result of this initiative will, I’m quite convinced, impact business on multiple levels.

I will trade immediate resources of time and effort for open doors tomorrow and next year. Not only for me, but for others.

Speaking of LeadershipChat, this coming Tuesday (April 10), we’ll welcome John Jantsch, Mr. Duct Tape Marketing himself, talking about referrals and small-business marketing in a networked world. Join us for some new thinking, new network contacts – and, who knows?, maybe some new open doors!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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What’s Up With Kony 2012?

One of my kids came to me all worked up about the rapidly-going-viral, must-see video Kony 2012 (here’s the link on YouTube. Warning: half-hour length).

In short, this video is part of an orchestrated campaign to bring an unsavory African guerrilla leader (Joseph Kony) to justice. He is the one you may have heard about that kidnaps children and turns them into his soldiers. His track record as a scourge on the earth is well-established, but according to Invisible Children (the organization who made the video), he is not nearly well-known enough. The campaign aims to fix that.

I almost never watch 30-minute on-line videos, but I did see this one through. It is well-made, with solid production values, a well-constructed story-line, emotional appeal, and a big dose of aspirational involvement – viewers are urged to become part of something big, something ground-level. My guess is that it’s going to work as an attention-generating campaign.

So – is there a downside?

I’m not sure yet. Who could be against capturing Joseph Kony? Sounds like a noble cause – but the storyline of the video seems just a bit slick, the hype level a bit over the top. My vague unease about the whole thing finds some reinforcement in a few scattered Internet postings about the organization (go ahead and Google it), and with this level of exposure, I’m sure that the goals, and practices, and people behind Invisible Children will be much more intensively vetted in the coming days. There will be fact-checking. I hope that they won’t be found to be (mere) attention-grabbing mercenaries of media promotion. I don’t want to be cynical, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Where there’s fund-raising, there’s always potential danger lurking. And sometimes, when we jump very quickly on a convincing-sounding bandwagon, we later realize that a bit more prudence was advisable.

The little blond son (Gavin – see picture above) of the filmmaker makes the production, by the way. Very cute, and very effective.

As far as effective media production and promotion – give these guys a high grade. Another high grade for a creative campaign concept. As far as what we’ll see in the full light of day as more information comes out – here’s hoping.

And it’s doubtful that anyone will mourn if Joseph Kony is actually captured!

Update: The Invisible Children folks respond to a number of the criticisms/questions that have arisen.

Update: The campaign is now making news in traditional media outlets, like the NY Times.

Update: My friend Amy Fitch touches on one aspect of this phenomenon that has been quite remarkable – how many of us learned of this video from our kids.

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Business As Usual. The End?

Tonight, on LeadershipChat, we welcome Brian Solis, author of multiple books (including his latest, The End of Business as Usual). We’ll be covering some themes from that book, including the idea of an adaptive organization.

While you’re gearing your mind up for the chat, be sure to read my talented and lovely co-host Lisa Petrilli‘s blog post (The End of Business Leadership as Usual).

Brian is clearly a smart guy, and a very effective presence in social networks. And if you want to gain a clear statement of how businesses must go beyond business as usual, here’s a juicy passage (p. 13):

In other words – connected consumers are now driving the revolution. Adapt or die.

But Mr. Solis also tends to make my head swirl, as I’ve read his writings over the years. Why? Well, I’m kind of a practical, plain-spoken guy. Brian’s thought process tends to be at another plane – shall we call it the Solisphere? – and his loquacious use of industry jargon is unparalleled. What do I mean? Well, here’s an extract from the book (p. 34):

Whew! With language like that, my guess is that this book will likely find its biggest appeal among the digerati – although the concepts are important for everyone in business.

As a fun experiment, I decided I would go through each chapter, and seek to extract one (or two) pinnacle statements that summarize the thought of that section – then string them together into a brief narrative and see if it presents an accurate overview of the main themes of the book (in Brian’s own words). Here goes:

- This book will introduce you to the connected consumer, and how they search for, discover, and share information, and ultimately, make decisions. In many significant ways, they’re not at all the consumer you know (Introduction)

- How people are connecting is setting the foundation for a powerful distribution network that rivals the greatest of news and broadcast networks (chapter 1)

- The democratization of information is connecting everyone, not just Millennials, distributing influence and making the role of the consumer and its impact on business more important than ever before (chapter 2)

- The medium is no longer just the message. Now, the medium is the platform and people now represent both the medium and the message (chapter 3)

- Researchers believe that the lure of social networks and the gadgets that link us to one another are rewiring our brains to constantly switch tasks. In the process, we lose our ability to preserve attention and focus (chapter 4)

- Businesses and media networks looking to attract connected consumers must earn every click by providing contextually relevant information and deliberate value. This changes the game for content production and engagement strategies (chapter 5)

- Many early adopters are betting on the importance of the connected consumer, investing in the cultivation of communities in areas where they don’t necessarily control, but as participants earn the privilege to steer experiences and interaction (chapter 6)

- At the center of the transformation of the audience is the ability for individuals to capture a moment through text, video, audio, or still images and share them in real time to the hundreds or thousands of individuals in their social and interest graphs…this is the dawn of an audience with an audience with audiences (my favorite expression in the book – SW)  (chapter 7)

- On the train to enlightenment, an important stop is at the convergence of media and human networks…TV is a shared experience and the Web is often a personal activity that connects people through shared experiences (chapter 8 )

- By understanding the dynamics of social capital and its relationship to influence, organizations learn how to identify connected individuals who reach ideal communities and offer the ability to amplify reach, build relationships, and drive beneficial outcomes (chapter 9)

- Reviews and experiences from trusted peers, experts, and influencers form the foundation of the network. The information that flows into the stream from multiple networks sparks conversation and triggers clicks, while shaping perception and steering decisions in the process. Social customers are highly connected and trust networks are affecting outcomes with or without the businesses the affect (chapter 10)

- Connected consumers purchase in public, and as such, they influence the decisions of others through the public stream (chapter 11)

- Retailers are bringing experiences to the connected consumer from virtual dressing rooms to cash registers, letting them shop, share, and pay on their own terms (chapter 12)

- In these interactive online colonies, brands are not only created, brand stature and strength are co-created. The new social landscape is rich with emotion (chapter 13)

- The decision-making cycle is evolving away from a linear process to an elliptical cycle that publicizes touchpoints for brand connection  (chapter 14)

- Connected customers are not cogs in the business machine, but they play an instrumental role in the progress of progress, the adaptation of business, and as such, become part of a new era of customer-centric business mechanics…the roles of the social consumer require different aspects of recognition and engagement and will eventually demand the complete socialization of your business (chapter 15)

- The adaptive business will weave customers into its culture, development, process, and story…businesses must design products and services that create meaningful and shareable experiences (chapter 16)

- Customer-centricity begins with a culture of change…introducing purpose into the business model and operating under a veil of transparency, customers and businesses collaborate in something bigger than they are  (chapter 17)

- Control was never there, however – at best, businesses possessed the semblance of control. In a connected global society, customers are in control of the brand experience and it didn’t take new media to bestow this power on them. That’s the gift of free thought. Opinions are universal, and now the ability to share them with the masses and affect the impressions and decisions of others is equally democratic (chapter 18)

- The future of business starts with change and ends with change management. Customers represent only one side of the equation, however, and for the adaptive business, engaged and empowered employees represent the balance (chapter 19)

- Becoming an adaptive business is not the final stage of evolution…the next level for companies is to become a predictive business. The essence of evolution and the ability to outpace digital Darwinism lie in the ability to embrace change and illustrate the attributes of those models that improve opportunities for relevance and leadership (chapter 20)

So – there’s a very condensed taste of how Brian sees the future.  Every book tells a story. This is the story of how digital connections are changing business as usual. And what it may take to lead business in the midst of a revolution.

How do you see it? Is this just so much social network Kool-Aid, or a glimpse into a future moving inexorably upon and within us? Join us for a lively discussion on Twitter during #LeadershipChat tonight, December 13, at 8 pm ET.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

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ROI in Context of Business Value

The next time someone asks you, “what is the ROI of social media?“, I suggest the following reply:

We can project the potential ROI of specific tactics using social media, but first let’s talk about BV (Business Value).” Specifically:

BVER – Business Value of Embracing Reality

BVIO – Business Value of Ignoring Opportunity

Networked communications – the use of point-to-point communications via social networks, and particularly through mobile – are simply the new normal. People don’t ask about the ROI of the Internet or of a computer anymore (though you can look at the ROI of a specific initiative) – these things are simply assumed. That’s what social networks – and mobile computing – are rapidly becoming. Assumed.

You don’t do ROI on assumed. You use the assumed to do something specific that will generate ROI.

So, what is the business value of being able to connect with your customers? What is the business value of being connected in a connected world? What is the business value – and the opportunity cost – to staying static in a world where digital networking in growing inexorably?

Put negatively – what is the business value of keeping one’s head buried in the sand? Can we start attaching minus dollar signs to that strategy??

There is no calculable ROI to “social media”, just as there is no ROI to common sense or breathing. Ubiquitous digital networks are just reality. Mobile communications are simply the new normal. Only a very small subset of the population calculates the value of using a horse-and-buggy vs. using a car. You do your calculations based on which car, and for what type of use. You’ve already decided the overall business value.

What is the calculated ROI of doing (this) using social media as (part of) the approach? Now, you’re starting to ask the right question.

Seek to direct ROI discussions to tangibles that can be measured, not something do broad as social media. The “ROI of social media” is a question that, as so framed, cannot be answered.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

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Trend Currents in Social Media

No, that’s not a typo. Trend Currents, not current trends.

Trend Currents are the large-scale cultural, economic, and technological shifts that drive our ongoing communications revolution. And I’ll be speaking on this topic September 23, at the Social Media Masters one-day intensive in NYC.

What are these Trend Currents that shape social media now, and will shape the future of networked communications? Not to to give the whole talk away, here are three main things that every marketer and business person needs to keep his/her eye on:

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity
  • Disrupted Intermediation
  • Global Individualism

Current trends are the outgrowths we see today. MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Google+ – those are all (temporary?) outworkings of much bigger Trend Currents.

Wayne Gretzky put it this way: Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now (paraphrase). By looking at the larger Trend Currents, we’re able to cut through the fog of current trends and see where the marketplace will be heading in the future.

Intrigued? There are still a few available seats at Social Media Masters – make your reservation now, and join Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Kat Mandelstein, Matt Hicks, Sean Moffitt, myself and others as we explore what is – and what is to come – in social media.

The event is produced by Social Media Club and Sensei Marketing.

Post-event update: Bob Knorpp captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

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