The New Rules of Engagement

It's About EngagementLast May I explained why I don’t like to get paid in full and in advance noting that this usually meant the client was more interested in the tax write off than in building a quality website. I added that it was next to impossible for me to do good work when a client is simply not engaged in the process.  In reviewing that earlier post it occurred to me that I sounded like a curmudgeon. (Okay, sometimes I am a curmudgeon). So in an effort to soften that perception, let me tell you what, in my opinion,  makes an ideal client.

It’s About Engagement

We recently began to hear the catch phrase Web 2.0 – a clever term that signaled the beginning of a new, more collaborative, participatory web and whose fundamental rule, according to Tim O’ Reilly of O’ Reilly Media is that “users have value”.  And that is the essence of today’s social web. It’s not so much about a web site as it is about a web presence. If your web site is your online home base, then your social profiles are your online outposts feeding vital information back and forth. But what’s really changed is the underlying objective. It’s no longer about businesses using the web to push their marketing message down people’s throats. It’s about establishing and nurturing online relationships. And like all relationships, listening is more important than talking. The web is a two way street now and smart businesses understand that it’s about using the vast array of social tools at our disposal to engage their constituents.

A Case Study – Victoria Station, Salem, MA

John Andrews, Executive Chef, Victoria StationJohn Andrews, the Executive Chef and Social Media Manager at Victoria Station in Salem, Massachusetts, understands the importance of building relationships. That’s why it’s a pleasure to work with him. He actively posts new status updates, photos and videos to Victoria Station’s Facebook page. Vic’s Boathouse is the new lounge at Victoria Station and John uses twitter on a regular basis to let his customers know about special promotions, musical happenings and more. Victoria Station’s homepage features a Youtube video, a MailChimp newsletter signup form and a dynamically changing calendar of events. In the true spirit of today’s self manageable web, John uses Squarespace to maintain the Vic’s Boathouse website and to edit and customize photos. John regularly checks in with his friends and contacts through foursquare, a social site that offers new ways to explore your city, earn points and unlock badges for discovering new things. He is, in a word, CONNECTED. But what really impresses me is the very visible link from Victoria Station’s homepage to its Yelp page. Why does that impress me? Because while the vast majority of what I see there are positive four and five star reviews, a few are less flattering. By letting me see those too, I get the message that Victoria Station is not perfect but that John is willing to listen to criticism and willing to improve. That’s how to build authentic, meaningful relationships. And meaningful relationships build successful businesses.

In his wonderful post titled The Biggest Secret of Social Media, Chris Brogan makes the simple assertion that “if you don’t like people very much, it won’t work very well.” John Andrews likes people.

How are you using social media to build relationships? What has been your experience? Is it working for you? Let’s talk about it.

Social Media and Baby Boomers

I’m a boomer … a baby boomer. You know, one of the 78 million babies born between 1946 and 1964. For the most part, my clients are boomers too. They didn’t grow up with the internet and for many of them the notion of social networking makes their hair stand up. To borrow a term used by veteran blogger and social media guru, Chris Brogan, they are not “digital natives“. To them, blogging, Facebook and social media in general is a second language. And frankly, its a bit like a second language to me too. But I’ve been immersed in the online culture for years and have become pretty fluent in this language. Indeed much of what I do for my clients is translating the language of social media into words and concepts they can understand.


In the past few years I have heard the same question over and over from my clients. Why do I need Facebook? Who cares if I just walked the dog, went to the store, have a headache, have a great recipe for chicken soup? … understandable questions from a generation that covets privacy above all things. But it’s about business now …serious business. And if you’re in business, you either get on the train or get run over by it. Consider this:

  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world
  • According to a September, 2008 (that’s almost 3 years ago folks) Cone, Business in Social Media Study, 93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media.
  • 85% of social media users believe that a company should go further than just having a presence on social sites and should also INTERACT!
  • According to Facebook, the number of Facebook users grew 144.9% from 2009 to 2010
  • The 55+ audience (there go those boomers again) grew a whopping 922.7% in 2009
  • According to the Nielsen 2010 Media Fact Sheet, Facebook reaches 56% of the active U.S. internet universe with an average usage of 6 hours per month per user
  • Facebook is the #3 site visited by users 65 and older

Get the point? Wait, there’s more. How about this from BusinessWeek, February 19, 2009:

“For companies, resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social Web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.”

So to businesses that are still squeamish about jumping into the social media pool, know this. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to want it, you may not even have to understand it. You DO need to know that your customers like it, want it, understand it and EXPECT it! ”


During the early days of the Industrial Revolution, as new Model T cars were rolling off the assembly lines in Detroit, blacksmiths became justifiably concerned about their future. Some believed this new fangled invention, the horseless carriage, would never catch on and that their jobs would be safe. They were wrong! Others saw the power of the wave coming towards them and reinvented themselves. So which blacksmith are you?

Let’s start the conversation.