Here is a value proposition you might not come across much- “keeping it simple to mitigate the impacts of change”. This is something I have applied to my network and I am increasingly satisfied by it. I also find this is something that many of the businesses I have test marketed to over the last few years strongly desire. It’s really easy to forget that people with full-time jobs or their own businesses as it may be, actually might not find the time to go online much. I think that’s starting to change more and more, but looking around my general regional area, I run into people all the time that have no idea about the internet or how to use a computer! Those that do often have a limited grasp of social media and just maybe are starting to look into Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. They very well might already be overloaded by the change, and introducing to them a new social application in Ning can sound to them like an added level of unwanted complexity. If you spend most of your time online then it’s easier to get a different impression. You see all the businesses that are diving into it and you can almost get the impression that everybody is online and at least think they know what they are doing. So many creators plug in as much as they can to relate to the huge variety of tools and preferences out there thinking more looks a lot better. If you are an online pro spread out across a multitude of social environments, one-stop-shop can appear attractive, and as a Ning creator you can think of it as more “lines in”. It’s an interesting dynamic for me because I think less is more of what the majority of my target market actually needs. However, they don’t necessarily know that, so you can see the temptation for a lot of people to be more impressed by the appearance of complex sophistication. It’s another one of those fine balances I’ve been talking about. I know from experience that giving people what they really need will be better in the end than giving them what they think they want. However, they might have to learn the hard way first, go their own route, and finally realize the value of what I am doing from their own experience.
Sometimes I run across business owners that are lost trying out new things. As I go about researching my target market, I find people sometimes using Ning, but it is quite clear they are way behind the curve. I see them going in with some of the same ideas I had when I first started in 2008. I have learned so much since then and that’s one of the reasons I think they can benefit from my services as a consultant. The thing is, with the technology, you can really take a do-it-yourself attitude because of the implied cost-effectiveness and control. Many business owners are wired for this- incredibly decisive, and looking to pinch pennies far more than your average Joe. Even if they have the money to spend for help, and I certainly make my services affordable, they’ll absorb the workload to figure things out themselves taking that 60 hour workweek to 80 hours.
Here’s a case in point. I met a personal trainer that had opened his own gym. He had an established clientele of just around a hundred people and he was able to get them all to join his Ning. I was real disappointed in what I saw in how he used it though. The people came on with a spirit of natural community that’s very prevalent in our town anyway. It’s the kind of culture of enthusiastic participation that most Ning Creators I meet dream of and have a hard time achieving. This guy had it from the get-go, but he did absolutely nothing with it. Instead, he tried using it to increase his revenues through ads and particularly affiliate product lines such as supplements and exercise equipment. He had so much that he was doing right as a local business owner. He had a weekly exercise segment with the local morning news show, and was really setting himself up as somewhat of a social media personality. However, instead of building on that to make his network an online attraction, engaging his members for the sake of developing ongoing market intimacy, and leveraging what he had to grow the business organically- he cheesed it. People went in with the right attitude, were not rewarded much for it and lost interest in what was an empty experience. It was so exciting for him though. I followed up with him several times and passively put forward what I could do to help him. I’m a bit disappointed I wasn’t able to get through to him because I’m pretty sure that if he had followed my advice things would be different for him today. Instead of focusing in on what he was doing with his Ning and doing it better, he let that become a mess that people grew tired of rather quickly. He put his time into learning new applications such as UStream and an online magazine publication. He wanted to sell streaming workouts and adspace to fitness related businesses. As I predicted, none of that went anywhere, he steadily lost clientele and failed to bring in new business. Eventually he had to shut it all down.
So a couple interesting schools of thought I encounter. There are those who have no idea and want nothing to do with change. Then there are also those who have some idea and dive too much into change. One phenomena I’ve been kind of paying attention to from a distance is Pinterest. Wow did that go viral in a quick way. You can see people spending so much time to stay up to date with the popular apps- to go where the action is. It doesn’t matter if you are turned off by the complexity or attracted to it- adapting to change is a fine balance.
When I first got into all of this I concentrated on Microsoft platforms. I used MSN Groups, MSN SoapBox, Windows Live Spaces, Microsoft Office Live Small Business, and so on. If you followed my blog, you would note how devastating it was for me as each of these in turn was either discontinued, or dramatically changed. It was mind blowing because I had invested so much time in developing my web assets, learning how to use them, and developing a well thought out approach to integrating these to represent my business concept. Each event hit me by surprise. When I had other priorities, a timeline I had planned for, and even sometimes deadlines, these were blown out of the water. Sometimes I had presentations where I was test marketing my business and introducing my websites and services only to be completely embarrassed by changes that were out of my control. To be honest, the same kind of thing happened to me when Ning changed their business model from the freemium. I literally lost a good two years of work from that- primarily from my original BETA community. The one thing I had going for me is that I had always approached this as a learning organization- I had set aside four years of planned research and development, so I learned and adapted without much consequence.
Even today, just using Ning, I consider myself to have a high level of risk exposure. Who knows what Ning is going to do next that could really change my plans? I have to admit the acquisition by Glam Media was a little scary for me. What I can say is I have incorporated “mitigating the impacts of change” as a major value proposition in my work. It’s in the simple design that makes it easy for people to understand and use- a value desired by people who are just discovering social media or are already overloaded by it. There are only a handful of social modules I am using such as profiles, forums, and blogs. I stay away from most of the custom tweaks, gadgets, and advance customizations that seem to be popular topics on Ning Creators. It’s not surprising to me when I see people running into problems, spending lots of additional time ascending the learning curve, getting lost or losing direction, and struggling with the impacts of changes. Most of that doesn’t phase me at all and in turn wouldn’t be a bother to my clients or members. My measure of satisfaction with Ning’s development efforts are generally in direct proportion to how much they leave what I have alone.
I do keep my eye open for desired enhancements and have picked up on the new mobile as a major win for the Ning development team, Ning Creators, and their communities. I’m looking forward to enhancements I can make when I upgrade such as possibly a splash page, sliders, custom sign up, and profile redirects. At the same time I have some anxieties. The Ning team have mentioned they are working on “enhancing” the blog application. So is this going to be a forced change that suddenly hits me one day, or can I be worry free and opt-in if I like what I am seeing? I’m nervous about upgrading too. Is this going to take my old dashboard and force me to use the new design editor? Is something going to change on my site? All I want is the increased member capacity, groups, events, and chat. I had those before when Ning was a freemium and already know how to integrate those as value adds on my site if they are essentially the same as they were. I’m concerned about how demanding it’s going to be on me, how much it’s going to cause me to adjust my plans, but I’m prepared to tolerate a little bit of discomfort, if necessary, to continue improving.
It’s something I’m very transparent about with my target market. I talk about the pro’s and con’s of using the platform, that I intentionally work at mitigating the impacts of change, and to keep in mind an exit strategy just in case. Considering the whole thing as more of a social media and networking event, what matters is what we do now and the relationships we build- things that cannot be taken from us. It’s all part of the expertise I offer as a social media consultant and a proprietary solution designed into my Ning network. In the face of the evolving modern business environment, the increasing rate and degrees of complexity, sometimes it is better to pick a few things and focus on being real good and solid with those.
i had to give you a plus at some point anyway - whatever your business skills, but you are very good content writer, you can go on an on about something with no beginning no end and no point - amazing quality. i would hire for content (if you could only write in french )
You are prolific, but the corporate vocabulary you use can be difficult to follow. Presumably it works in marketing social media services to business owners. Often, as you made the point yourself, less is more.
I do not agree with the suggestion in the first reply that good content writing consists of hitting a specific word count while saying nothing. Content needs to have practical value to the reader. Nor do I think your posts lack substance. The topics are sometimes nuanced and open-ended. Not a bad thing on a forum.
Thankfully, this tip was neither a submission for a writing contest, nor a pitch, lol!
I do follow my own advice when marketing my site and services. I think I epitomize the "less is more" philosophy, and this is probably one of the biggest values I am proposing on my network. I have a socio-geographic niche where most everything that might be said about our local community can go without saying.
For example, most people in my area already know that we are heavy on agriculture, being "green", and buying local. So I don't even go so far as to propose those as values. When people in my community join, then those interests will surely be facilitated. Instead, I focus on just presenting the regional nickname as the brand reference, presenting only a handful of very clear and intuitive options for ease of use, and pointing out that "It's that simple!".