Today I am going to expand on a discussion article I recently posted on the Ning Creators forum called Transparency. Let’s talk a little about what I am trying to accomplish in doing this. For one, the popular use of the Ning Creators forum is generally around coding, features, and problems with the platform. Writing about a topic like transparency is generally not received well there, and is one of the reasons I created this group A Social Media Dojo. Still, I posted the article there to encourage people to think a bit more deeply about what they are doing, and to know there is so much more to it than just the technology. I happen to be a social media consultant, so certainly I want to position myself as somewhat of an expert. My target market is mainly real brick & mortar business owners from my geographic region in Northern California, but I also see the possibility of offering my service to Ning Creators specifically- even if they are not technically businesses or from my area. My goal is not necessarily to sell you anything, but rather to present to you insights that you could value as worth paying someone for. If what I have to say resonates with you, then of course we can discuss how my time and effort applied to your project could be a benefit. I already talk with a number of network creators offsite providing free advice and support. I would love to get paying clients to work with me on an ongoing basis, but the key for me is to have people that really want to incorporate my ideas and who actually want to support my own project.
What I am doing is going against the grain, especially considering the conventions in the social media marketing arena. Most people with any kind of proprietary expertise are looking to charge you up front for things like SEO, web development, ad revenue generation, and content distribution across social platforms like Facebook. Those happen to be in high-demand, but my position on it is that most businesses are actually asking the wrong questions & looking for the wrong solutions. SEO is an assumption that people are going to search for products and services they want, and that getting listed first puts you in a position to compete for those sales better. Web development is generally the premise that having better graphics and fully loaded social features is going to be the key in winning people over on your business line. Ad revenue generation suggests you should try to position around what is popular because the traffic to your site can become attractive income. Content distribution often involves producing media with a hook, getting it onto the social platforms people are using, and attracting those people into your world. They’ll usually take you on indiscriminately as long as you have a budget to offer, there’s no guarantee it will lead to what you expect out of it, and even if you do get what you want there’s just as much chance that has nothing to do with the success of your business- you might be asking the wrong questions.
I believe success through social media has more to do with developing superior market intimacy. That is, the more you can connect with people on a genuine level, the more likely they are to give serious consideration to doing business with you. A traditional business model is to brand yourself as some sort of anonymous well capitalized organization, to push a supply that predicts a demand, and to do it with a level of efficiency that costs less and closes more sales. With technology, virtually anyone can do this. So let’s say you have a Ning network. It’s easy to start with your header and logo as some sort of formal business brand. From there you look at monetization which could be ads, paid access, perhaps integration of a product storefront like café press. Now all you need to do is get people in the door. So you work on your SEO, check your metrics, and encourage people to invite their friends. I see this all the time, but despite the announcements of success I hear, I think this model is increasingly becoming outdated. Why?
I always start with my own personal impressions and preferences. I challenge you to do the same. How impressed are you that someone has a social site? As Ning Creators probably even less than your average Joe. I think the average person online is increasingly less impressed with the appearance of sophistication whether that be that you have a business or social site. When I go somewhere and see ads, I immediately get the impression I am being used. Do you really want to go to someone’s site just so they can profit from the traffic and ad revenues? Even when I find sites at the top of Google results, I’m usually not thinking they are the best for me, but rather that they are willing to pay to have that appearance. The modern internet user is increasingly discretionary and I think turned off by whatever they sense is a manipulation. I think it’s safer to start with what you really want and how… and by extension think about how you can present and deliver to people what they really want in the way they want it. Do you want to buy something from someone that’s leveraging technology to sell more for less? Most of what I encounter out there seems to have that as their primary concern…not necessarily giving me what I actually want and in a better way. So this shapes what I do and the line of thinking I offer to my prospective clients.
Next, what I’m going to do is present to you exactly how I am incorporating transparency into my own projects, how I extend that as a value to my clients, and how this can be applied for you as a Ning network creator whether part of my project or not.
refreshing perspective.... much appreciated.
I was not expecting anyone was paying attention just yet, but your positive feedback is just as much appreciated. I'm going to be doing a whole series of articles here on concepts I am applying and I think are a bit underserved on Ning Creators. Hopefully, they will be found unique, insightful, and useful.
O.K. to get started, I'm going to share a behind-the-scenes blog documentary I started in March 2008. http://nascentdynamics.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/introducing-nascent...
Now this is not something I typically share anymore. I stopped blogging maybe over a year and a half ago, but it represents a little over 3 years of planned research and development covering everything in my early years that got me into Ning. At the least, I think the body of work there epitomizes transparency. If you were to take the time to read through it all, you would really get to know who I really am, what I am really doing, and what I really want. I don't recommend reading through it though! It's already outdated for the most part in my opinion, and in retrospect a lot of it is kind of embarrassing. I would have kept on blogging, but the platform I used forced a migration over to WordPress, and I just found the new site uncomfortable to use. I like keeping it up as an archive though. The very concept of the business I was developing had to do with taking ideas through to materialization, so documenting the creative process and showing the evolution were all intentional. The most important aspects of this work are where you would find consistency over time. Certain elements proved true from before I got started, throughout the process, and have continued to be refined through to what I do now.
I still think blogging is perfectly suited for the practice of transparency. The very intention behind the design of weblog modules is self-disclosure, capturing & sharing experiences, and documenting what you encounter online. I recommend it is a specific protocol for both Ning network creators and their members, and I have the experience to offer alot of insights into the pro's and con's of doing it. Stepping away from my blog was a good thing though. I still offer transparency on my new network www.norcal.ning.com, but the way I do it is by far more concentrated, concise, and refined by comparison.
This raises a good point in that transparency can also work against you! When I approach my prospective consulting clients, my old blog is certainly not something I plan on introducing to them. However, it's also not something that I intend to hide either. If they ask, or it comes up in conversation, then I can present it to them with the necessary disclaimers, lol! You can see from the blog that I started out with a branding concept for my business. Now, my Ning logo has a minor reference to "presented by..." my original concept, but it's kind of tucked away in fine print. I still carry the brand as a domain extension to my e-mail which anyone who corresponds with me or looks into the profile on my site will encounter. If they take the time to search Google for more about me then they will surely discover my old blog too. I think keeping it up for the sake of transparency works for my purposes, but also the conspicuous absence of that material on my current work speaks to my improved professionalism in what I do.
So on my Ning you will note I am going with the more straightforward personal branding approach Created by Anthony Reardon. Here on Ning Creators, you will see me playing around with alternative branding such as A Social Media Ninja, Nascent Dynamics ( ), or Nor Cal Social Media. I do that for some other reasoning I will write about later, but I always sign my posts as Anthony, and using my own name on my own site is very intentionally part of being transparent with my target market.
I mentioned transparency has to do with being clear about who you are, what you are doing, and what you want. Initally, you can see from my site that I am very upfront about doing business... Online social media consulting on-demand ($50 per month, negotiable). Most of the people visitting my site for the first time will be arriving after I have met with them in person and given them my card, or otherwise corresponded with them saying I am a social media consultant and inviting them to check out my work. Once I get client/ sponsors, it will be reconfigured with a more generalized welcome message suitable to the general public, but for now my target market is businesses only, and the site is intended for demonstration/ information purposes.
Extending tranparency as a mode of personally relating to people, being a genuine person as opposed to trying to impress as too formal, and having a real personal passion my community can buy into- I have a video blog entry prominantly placed on my site that I guess says it all in less than 3 minutes. http://norcal.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-nor-cal-superstars.
How I present my project to local businesses often depends on how much time I get with them beforehand, the interest I gauge they might have in various aspects, and how much I think they want to know. For those I think can handle a more comprehensive view of the project, I may present them with a link to a discussion entry I posted with some PDF attachments including an e-book like business plan. You can check that out here http://norcal.ning.com/forum/topics/welcome-to-northern-california-..., and again you can see me offering a level of transparency that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
So as I mentioned in my first article on Transparency, you will see that I don't necessarily hide behind the anonymity of a brand, but I do make efforts to present myself as a professional associated with online branding. It's a balance and I fully know that what I do can work either for or against me in that respect. I offer varying degrees of personal and professional self-disclosure understanding that everyone is different. It's all there to be discovered, but I rely a lot on reading people beforehand and being selective on what I present to them first. I have short, medium, and long versions I can present via landing page, discussion attachment, or blog video respectively. However, I can leverage the values of these in varying contexts as I study the people and needs behind businesses in my market.
So looking into a business, one of the first aspects I will analyze about their online assets is to what degree do they offer transparency. Whatever it is they do can work for or against them. Sometimes I see people offering a bit too much of their personalities, and in my opinion that diminishes the quality of their business presentation considering their intended audience. Other times I find they fail to distinguish themselves with any authenticity, and despite what they've invested into quality web presence they are easily categorized as irrelevant to the distinguishing internet user. Transparency opens the door to accessibility which I will get into more shortly, but basically I usually choose to approach people that are already starting to show an effort in presenting themselves as "real". It's when people recognize that it is a key that my consulting becomes more of a value. I don't mind introducing the concept, but what I really enjoy is helping people to do it better. If you look at my work, particularly the years of trial and error, then you can really appreciate how I have refined it to the level of art form.
More to follow! I'm going to continue on this with a more specific explanation of how my use of transparency extends to my clients, and that should bring me around to a focus on Ning network creators.
I thought I would lead off with a clip I saw on the Discovery Channel about the VW transparent factory. Perhaps as a Ning network creator, you might not recognize the principle as any kind of major paradigm shift. It's easy enough to just be yourself. What I'm talking about is a fundamental change in business model and auto manufacturing is a great example of a traditional supply-push concept to pre-packaged brand retail. If you have a car to sell, then it would seem easy enough to shoot out brand advertisement and then let the finished product sell itself. Whether you are a busines with a website or Ning creator with a social network, the temptation is to leverage that established seller-buyer process and come across the same way. However, even in the auto industry, this way of thinking is evolving.
What you see above is a very specific implementation of transparency. VW wants to develop superior market intimacy. It's proving key to their target market who, in general, are distinguishing consumers. They want top quality, functionality, and affordability- and just telling people that's what you've got is not necessarily enough anymore. Inquiring minds want to know what is going on behind the scenes. Are you some kind of anonymous corporation or a friendly transparent one? Transparency can even be extended further. Toyota, for example, has been able to accomplish a two week turn around on custom accessory orders right in the factory so people can go online, choose the features they want, and then pick it up in a couple weeks. That's taking people deeper behind the scenes for a closer involvement in the design process.
I've always thought of my original business idea as a "prototype concept business" much like a state-of-the-art concept car. Being transparent, I've included people in real-time on the research and development process, encouraged and incorporated their feedback, and invited them to influence the direction of my projects in their favor. Now this is easier to encounter in social networks. Being fundamentally interactive, the feedback loop helps us take our original concepts and modify to what works best for our communities. Ning is a good example of transparency in this respect with the Ning Creators community, Product Roadmap, BETA focus groups, etc.
On the other hand, being completely open and responsive to social influence is not always the most constructive approach. I've been a part of and had my own Ning networks with hundreds or more members- and I did not like how they turned out. You still have to know what you are doing, have some discretion on your transparency, and set some parameters to ensure you are satisfied with the outcome. This could have to do with making sure you've got a positive ratio of profit to loss, cultivating a desired culture of community, or just keeping it manageable. Again, it's a balance.
So here's some insight into how I'm applying transparency to my network. I've got it set up as a BETA (pre-release pending sponsors) with no members. I'm doing a phased implementation starting with business clients first, and I'll write more about that later. For my business clients, I'm offering a transparency through my interactive business plan. That means I'm sharing most of the major insides and outs about the project in detail for their consideration and for discussion with me. Now most business owners in my market actually prefer a finished product/ service- something they can purchase, turn key, and drive away with. It's harder for me to initially impress upon them the value of transparency. However, those that do are essentially going to be partnering with me to co-found our local social network, so instead of hit and miss we're all going to be intimately familiar with what's going on, cooperatively vesting in a desired outcome, and working together throughout the development behind-the-scenes but transparently for the benefit of our local community.
I'm not hiding this from anyone- I'm completely transparent in it. I want a more intimate relationship with my market. It's going to help me provide a far better experience and service to them, but it's also going to help me assure I get what I want out of it too. If you look closely at my project, you will see that I'd really rather be playing soccer, lol! The business service element is more like scaffolding that I want to shed away from the final building. As a consultant, rather than providing a turn key service to do things for business, I'm creating a proprietary environment with personal service to help them get started, and to teach them how to do it themselves. In a sense, my social network is going to be the same value to my soccer related business line as it is for my clients- a common theme or channel we can all benefit from while maintaining our autonomy.
So I set the example for transparency with my soccer project. There's the soccer project I linked earlier which shows the concept is simply me pursuing a dream and trying to start a local social media driven semi-pro soccer team. It starts small as a video blog documentary about me, but with the help of sponsors could evolve into something our community can enthusiastically buy into. While I have set myself up to offer consulting to businesses, and this could be offsite or helping them develop a social presence on my network, the best peice of advice I intend to offer is for them to sponsor me, lol!
By being transparent and real in this way, a business can be a part of what I am doing and by extension be a part of something genuine. It's a level of personal authenticity you just cannot go out and buy. I've set it up so businesses can simply get listed as sponsors on the site. However, all inclusive with that is an opportunity to get involved in my featured social media campaign for the soccer team I'm organizing to physically promote the site. If they have more time and energy to put in, then I make myself available to help them develop comprehensive social media marketing strategies, help them somewhat in the execution, and am available to support them throughout "on-demand".
O.K., so that's how I am extending my use of transparency to my prospective business clients in Northern California. I've been thinking of how I might present the same concept for more specific use by Ning network creators, since you'd have to figure how this applies to you as a general example right now, and possibly how I can extend my projects directly too. More to follow!
Alright! Getting this all knocked out in one afternoon. Believe it or not, I'm very self-conscious about writing long and wordy posts. It's rather my natural writing voice, which you would find consistent in that old blog link I shared. Since then I've put a lot of work into refining just how much I present and how. Lately, on Ning Creators, I've been commenting on a lot of forum posts in my longer stream of thought format. I imagine that most people precipituously lose interest the more they read, lol! Fortunately, for my own Ning network, this is something I've managed to mitigate for the time being. This has to do with my attention to transparency, but also very specifically trying to balance that with sufficient professionalism to get through to my target audience- real businesses.
As a Ning creator looking at my network as a model, you can take away some ideas about how to be transparent, but also selective on the how and when to incorporate transparency. Starting with the main page again, you will note that the network is created by me the person. There is some branding going on for the site itself, and also some slight reference to my personal business concept's brand, but since I'm using my full name as the Network Creator, that's what should stand out most. There's a person underlying the site, and that's complimented by a somewhat casual profile photo. I've taken great care not to provide too much information on the main page. That's helpful in making what I do present more prominant, clear, and easy for end-users to decide what to do next. Again, the value proposition is transparent and directly speaks to my intended target audience. I follow that with my e-mail which is a combo-brand between my full name and domain extension. The desired effect is for my prospects to know that I am a consultant and I created the site. That information should be a reiteration from introducing myself in person, telling people I'm a social media consultant that can help them get their business online better, and giving them a business card for a social network I'm developing niched to our region that I'd like them to check out.
Now, depending on how that conversation went, I may follow up with an e-mail tying in what I learned about their business and emphasizing certain landing points to their attention. If I do nothing, my expectation is that most anyone that looks at the site will say "O.K." and then click away. If I'm lucky, then they may embark on a choose your own adventure navigation, and even then my expectation is they would look one level deeper one time and that's it. Certainly, how I have it set up is for every link to have some sort of self-contained complete value to make a winning first impression, they are mostly extremely concise in their own right to encourage continued navigation between 10 to 20 seconds, and if all went ideally people would be rewarded with the more substantive time-consuming content building out the complete picture. I've actually been physically present when test marketing this in person and watched people experience my site. The first reaction is to go to the Welcome (main) link, and between not pulling down a sub-menu and getting only a refresh on click, that's usually it. The next navigation option for Sign On (Sign Up/MyPage) is a call to action to join, and that's not something people want to do on first encounter. So it really serves my interest to have already established some rapport with visitors before they check the site out. In the event I don't, though, what I do have going for me is an extremely simple and intuitive navigation that more closely matches what people are used to encountering on traditional static web pages.
Within my landing page I'm positioning two links only for prominance besides my top navigation. I have a Welcome Guide (BETA) just below the main Welcome tab, and that's a short click through slideshow that takes visitors through a tour of the top navigation. From there, I'm hoping they will be interested enough to click on each of my tabs respectively. The other link is positioned like a site sponsor- I have a branded soccer ball pic with a link to my soccer project blog video which is a one shot to say it all in 3 minutes. Most likely people click the soccer ball and pull up the JPEG, so that could be a dead end too, lol! I'm an optimist though, so let's just say that people visitting have the common sense and interest to click through a few of my links :).
Meet People: There's just me. If they have not already looked into my profile as featured on the main page, they will have an opportunity here. If you look at my profile you'll only see my e-mail with the domain name actually linked to my personal website. That site, for my Nascent Dynamics ( ) concept, is an extremely vague and ambiguous vision statement. It's a combo between a static HTML web page and an embedded slideshow from my Ning site. The substance of the content presented will be meaningless to most of my business audience, but will come across as a creative work, show some brand splashing, and overall be a decent "social media" demo. It might take an artist's eye to register on first impression, but it's actually a matrix representing all my work. There's allusion to my network, to my various branding modes, to my consulting, and to my soccer ambitions. It's something I want to make sense as my legacy after the fact I'm successful. Quite mysterious, but extremely transparent and personal. For my business audience, I'm better off standing next to them like an artist at a gallery. What I can say is this is very intentional and inspired by http://www.oakley.com/innovation/. I learned how to do this from scratch as documented in my blog, and the slideshow is a widescreen media presentation similar to a movie theater experience. It's similar to a splash landing page for a Ning network, and it's also a demonstration of how social media, specifically from my Ning network, can be integrated to turn a static page into more of a multi-media presentation.
What I've done here is demonstrated a lesson in reserved transparency too. Rather than push all that out there on my Ning network, I've reserved it to a relatively inconspicuous link on my personal profile. So the social network doesn't have to be all about me. While it may be just that in the beginning, it's only so because there's nobody else on the site yet and my stuff stands out more. You can see that as members would populate out the site, my personal presence would become less prominant. I prefer to be a bit "off" and more naturally me in terms of a popular norm. There's a very strong demand for social media services out there- a lot of companies are hiring people to be brand ambassadors and represent them full-time across various social platforms. I don't want to be a candidate to do that for businesses. I want to do my own thing in my own way. It's better if I can consult others on how to do it themselves, or perhaps to train their social media marketing staff to use the site. So this personal transparency kind of supports that inclination to individuality too. I recommend the same to businesses. Being part of a social network, or putting out social media, be selective in what you put out there. Certain aspects that may be too personal may best be reserved to your inner social circle on respective platforms like Facebook. Rather than constantly push your business, being tasteful in what you present and when can be more effective- especially if you have the main body of your business details covered on your own site. As a Ning network creator you can consider this too.
Open Discussions: Here again I have just one discussion. It turns out to be what looks like a branded placemat- pretty consistent with my main page appearance. This time though, I've got the additional background element of my personal photo. That's it- no content. People might click my profile, and click the discussion, get a good professional impression and click off. What I do have are a couple PDF attachements. One is for The Nor Cal Superstars (Sponsorship Program) and that is a super concise one page self-disclosure about who I really am, what I'm really doing, and what I really want. The other attachement is my interactive business plan called Nascent Dynamics ( ) Online Social Media Consulting. That is I think an 18 or 19 page e-book that goes into complete detail about me and the project. Now I offer some disclaimers in that it is a lengthy read and very much an option rather than a requirement. I almost don't want people to read it because it's more along the lines of my stream of thought writing, and like I said I'm very self-conscious about it. However, the one inexcapable value that it does deliver is transparency in whole. For example, in it I offer another disclaimer in understanding the importance of brevity writing copy, but nonetheless planning to hire someone to do that, lol! My strengths are apparent in strategic thinking and innovation, and if anyone can tolerate my weaknesses in writing, then they'll surely know what to expect in working with me ;). Again, whether you are a business owner, or network creator, this is another way of being more transparent while also smartly selective in how and when you present the info. It's prominant now, suitable for casual browsing, and targetted specificly so only those with an interest are likely to find & open deeper. It can stand alone and also work together with the other site elements- it's another layer of transparency following web usability principles to start with something very short like the main page value proposition, medium like the 3 min video, and then extensive to satisfy anyone with a taste for the complete information.
Share Media: My last top nav link points to a video blog feed, but the content is representative of my niche, and this is the example of what my social media environment has to offer my target market as well as the public audience once the site is released. You won't find my personal transparency there with the exception of the very first post on the last page which happens to be the one I link for my soccer video pitch. Here, transparency is communicated as a principle through direct example. I have videos from real people and videos from businesses related to my region side by side. You can see how some companies use social media as an entertainment value while also associating to our geographical niche. You can also see how some companies use social media to position themselves on a more personal intimate level within the community. Some businesses that can afford to are putting out very high quality productions. Others, like myself, are taking a do-it-yourself approach using web cams and basic video editing software. I've selectively avoided blind pitching like you see with used-car dealership commercials, paid advertisements, and the like. Everything is qualitative, value-added, and appears a relatively easy way to communicate meaningful transparency through "social media". The great thing about using a video blog format is that anyone can do it, you can convey a broader channel of people and business meeting under a common theme, like a picture says a thousand words- nothing communicates you are real than motion picture, and a short 2 to 8 minute average video can say it all without burdening people with a bunch of boring writing!!!
in 2003 a guy by the name of "loftninja" in nyc began the first ever real estate blog due to lack of transparency in the real estate industry..with a little follow up from a guy named justiNYC look into those... you will find a lot of parallel ideologies..thanks man
need to publish an ebook
Man, this morning's tour of you just blew my mind. I'm almost speechless, lol! What I can say is I recognize the parallel ideologies. Learning more about you and your work I'm an even bigger fan now.
So yeah, I see the use of transparency as innovation. Awesome how you push the envelope. Also interesting to note is some of the fragmentation. I can see how you moved across different projects and platforms over time. That experience makes you a true expert in social media, and it obviously shows in how you've refined to the level of mastery in your more recent work.
Someone once told me the drawings or sketches underlying a work are more important than the finished piece. You've got a phenomenal legacy there. I only put in a couple hours to sample your body of work that spans nearly a decade I think, but I found it all fascinating.
need to make a movie
fo sho man...its in the works.. never imagined you'd take a 'tour' so with that said, we should get together at some point so i can point out some of the highlights in my quest for truth and transparency.. i just actually went and googled those guys mentioned above for the first time in a couple of years...still blows my mind
a couple to chew on that i caught at a glance:
when a fellow friend and blogger died http://www.inman.com/news/2010/08/4/thank-you-joe-ferrara
words made up by loftninja http://www.urbandictionary.com/author.php?author=loftninja
the true meaning of shoefitti (another blog quoting justiNYC) http://www.shoefiti.com/2007/04/14/new-york-city-shoefiti-explained...
a blog to help other real estater learn how to blog (for transparency) http://justinyc.typepad.com/reblogpro/
haha.what $750 will get you in NYC http://justinyc.typepad.com/justinyc/nyc_theory/
my favorite find of the day: http://justinyc.typepad.com/justinyc/2006/01/shoefiti_phenom.html
thanks for this blast from the future past
Cool! I'll check these out for sure. Neat also how you can pull up a select list from your portfolio of works.
I saw all kinds of great content you put out there. One that stuck was the story about the old mustard building fiasco.
Looking forward to our future conversations.
Today I'm looking at concluding this segment, and it's a bit unconventional to use a discussion thread for such a detailed presentation- I know. I actually had a brief discussion with Ning about utilizing the Ning Creators blog application, but they discontinued its use when members were trying to use it along the same lines of the forum. I also realize in a sense I could have written this all out on an attachment like an e-book, but I want this to be more visible as an interactive social media presentation, and it would have been too tempting to take extra time to formalize a quality publication in writing. I have a lot in mind to get done, and this is just the first segment in a series I have planned, so easier for me to just freestyle it like this. The substance of the insights are there for the discovering if any Ning creators want to take them back and apply to their activities. I'll be doing some cross referencing between articles I start on the Ning Creators forum and here, so we'll see if we can get this group fired up as a hot resource for social media innovation.
The last part of this presentation I alluded to earlier is going to be how Ning creators can be a part of my project. It will probably take me a couple posts to get through it. This started with my general introduction of the principle of transparency in social media. I covered how I have been incorporating this into my own projects, and how more specifically you can see examples of it on my current network. I also covered how I extend my transparency as a value to my clients through association, and by example how that is what I can advise people on whether they have a business site or social network for that matter. None of this to this point has to do with getting you to join my site or subscribe to my services. If you've taken the time to explore my examples of transparency, then surely you'll have a good idea of what I am doing, and it's fairly clear that my target market is defined as Northern California businesses and eventually Nor Cal people- not Ning Creators.
Keeping transparency in mind though, I've been thinking alot about how I can involve other Ning creators even if they are not directly relevant to my niche. I've been pretty active on the community the last several months, and I see a notable need for my advisement on a lot of projects- aspects such as design sense, web-usability, and optimizing the end-user experience for both creators and their communities. Just like the real brick & mortar businesses in my area, I get the impression many network creators are asking the wrong questions and focusing on the wrong solutions. I don't expect to get that point across very easily. My network presentation is also not set up for you- you are not directly mentioned in my business plan, etc. So what I'm going to be doing here presenting some of the concepts and projects I'm working on is give you an "in".
No matter where you are from or what your network theme is, the one thing we do have in common is Ning. I actually promote my sites association with the platform while making it clear there's no direct affiliation. It's something I had to rethink a bit about when Ning converted to Ning | Glam Social. I always look at this from the perspective of what is Ning going to mean to my prospective clients, members, audience, etc. A lot of creators prefer white label without the Ning branding, and for new networks this is apparently not even an option anymore, but I'm one that's actually chosen to put the Powered by Ning | Glam Social in my footer. As a mini user, I've kind of taken the approach if it's going to be in my header and underneath my About Network Creator profile that I might as well make it work for me. As a consultant, I can say I specialize in using the platform somewhat- I'm intimately familiar with the pro's and con's of it, or I have a very well developed experience with it that I apply to my concept.
The most fundamental solution on my site is that it is a self-contained solution for my niche. That means businesses actually could benefit from participating in our social media channel and social networking without having any need to create their own. Now in the event they do develop a following around their particular business line, I can extend that into a Group module, and if that is not robust enough then advise them on setting up their own. I'm not a Ning site designer though- that's not the service I am offering as a consultant. I don't really have to be either because most of the principles I apply call for a simplified and clean experience using the basic Ning tools which do not require much sophistication to execute. Anyways, I can totally see being approached by clients/prospects and even members with an interest in creating their own Ning networks. If so, I'd actually like to refer that business out to a preferred vendor- someone that's real good at developing high quality Ning sites, that can relate to the consulting I offer my clients, and that I can feel will meet the standards needed for successful outcomes across the board.
Lately I've been trying to promote some better thinking about Ning development and even offering some direct advisement on projects. What I haven't mentioned is why. I'm sure the general assumption is that I'm looking to pick up business from Ning creators, but not necessarily so. Actually, what I've had in mind has more to do with showcasing other networks on my site as a value to my community. I want to promote my site, then have people come to it and find new online resources-specifically other Ning communities- that they can learn about, explore, and possibly join. I don't mind turning people on to cool communities- I'm an advocate of open social and not afraid of losing members that way. As long as it represents a very positive online experience for my members, then why not...it's a value add for checking out my site. However, the problem I run into often is a lot of Ning networks I simply would not recommend. If people run into poor quality, bad service, and I guess what you could call the stinky cheese of profiteering through ad traffic based sites- then that doesn't represent me well, and people I refer are likely to walk away with a bad taste in their mouth about my project.
So I'm on the lookout for Ning's I would actually recommend. When I see good ideas I think are being poorly executed, then I'm looking to offer my advice to help them improve, because what I really want is for them to get up to a standard I'll feel comfortable about sharing to my community. I can see a benefit in investing in the success of other networks too without necessarily implying creators pay me. I don't anticipate much competition between niches- I'm all about Northern California and you are probably not. Whatever your niche is, chances are if it is a resounding success you're going to be networking with people that are from Northern California. Therein I can see a potential value to me in finding business owners or even members that would enjoy subscribing to my site.
The thing about most Ning creators is most really undervalue what it is they are doing. I feel sorry for anyoe that looks to profit by providing a quick service to you actually. What you represent is a node of organization that thousands of people might rally around. That's so valuable. In Northern California especially, I see more and more technologies, practices in online advancement, and demand for social media marketing services. All these are driving toward what you are already set up for- reaching out to people, developing close connections, and achieving superior market intimacy. So many of you are sitting on gold and don't even realize it.
Look at my target market. for example, in Northern California businesses and people. What would it mean for you and your network project to have a direct line to my community (assuming it turns out to be as substantial as I have in mind)? Also, what could it mean for my community, and especially my area's businesses who want better solutions in social media marketing, to have access or exposure through your community (assuming it's as substantial as you have in mind)? I probably don't have much interest in joining your site to network on whatever your theme or niche is and I don't expect you would for mine either. However, I would probably have an interest in meeting and networking with anyone you've got that's related to or interested in my niche, and if you've got a network that can appeal to people's interest in my community then there's something to be said about the possibilities. I encourage you to look at me as I see you- as someone that represents possibly hundreds if not thousands of prospective members. Besides potential value, I find it highly efficient to network with one person that can open the door to getting my site infront of thousands.
So how do we do it then? What's the "in"? Well, for one, the common thread to start is we are Ning Creators. Maybe you're whitelabel and wouldn't want to associate with someone that openly associates to the Ning platform. Besides that, there's also navigating through who we really are, what we're really doing, and what we really want. I, for one, would be extremely selective on who I would associate with. I wouldn't expect anything less from you if you have any integrity for what you are doing with your community. Fortunately, I think that reiterates my point on transparency quite well.
Finally, I'm going to move toward closing this segment with some more insight on how my project has a more universal theme that perhaps we can associate on above and beyond relating as Ning creators. As I've drawn your attention to earlier, I'm really all about soccer! First thought on that might be "Sounds pretty boring" huh? Well, I personally think soccer, obviously an interest that spans internationally, is especially poised in the U.S. for tremendous growth. It's a market opportunity that has yet to be realized anywhere close to it's full potential even considering the relative success of Major League Soccer (MLS). What I'm doing with soccer and social media should excite you- right now it's understated on my site to simply me wanting to play and perhaps organizing a local team- but what I have in mind I want you to know could be considered REVOLUTIONARY. I'll conclude this series with a final post all about that, but for now let me leave you with this video to stimulate your imagination a bit. Anyone know who this is?
And now for the long awaited finale to my segment on Transparency In Social Media!
Above you find a video premiering the rebirth of The New York Cosmos, basically one of the first big time soccer teams in the United States perhaps a good 30 years ahead of its time. It's often said that Pele made the soccer team famous, but the most important part of that is you can credit them with with helping to make the sport famous in America. Now, years after the fall and rise of soccer in the U.S.- they are back!
This particular video features the President of Soccer Operations, Eric Cantona. Noting the video I posted in my previous post, you will get what I mean when I say this guy is an interesting character. What was interesting to me is how they seemed to be using social media to drive the concept even before they actually had a team. They obviously got a major brand name sponsor in Umbro, but their approach is more grassroots...and revolutionary.
What they are doing is what I want to do. I've got a simple idea to create a social media driven semi-pro soccer to to help promote my social network www.norcal.ning.com, which will serve as a value to regional businesses I can get to sponsor the project. We're even more grassroots, because it's starting with nothing more than me- my own vision, dream, and passion to play professional soccer. Everything that I do as a social media consultant and creating this social network- for me is a means to that end. However, my site is niched beyond the theme of soccer to Northern California as a whole. In that way it can be more about the community and thus more of a direct value to sponsors that want to develop superior market intimacy through the area. Along the lines of transparency I've been discussing, the one thing money cannot buy is the kind of personal passion driving the project- a kind of authenticity that both sponsors and the community can enthusiastically buy into.
I'm very much in tune with how this can actually be a viable business model. Of course, it would always be easier if I could find a major corporate sponsor. That kind of thing is not easy, but I've seen Nike, for instance, sponsoring blogs. What they do with Nike SPARQ, Nike Acadamy, etc, their use of social media- all that is tied into the design of my concept. So it's set up to be a perfect fit in the event they take an interest. However, I've contacted them already, and I'm simply not in a position yet to impress them. That's O.K., because I can take the same value and distribute it out for the benefit or local businesses in my region.
My town actually used to be home to one of the oldest semi-pro soccer teams in California. They were called The Chico Rooks, and I actually play with many of the former players. Their business model just turned out to be unsustainable. My business model is extremely modern and addresses all the deficiencies they had in new innovative ways. Look closer at what The New York Cosmos are doing. They are starting out with a development academy before even having a team. From there, they organize semi-pro exhibitions. In their case, for instance, they went out and played away at Manchester United. With the backing and big names driving the project that was a feasibility. They also took over a New York semi-pro soccer tournament which I will post a video about later, but essentially it's all about a grassroots campaign to repopularize the sport, organize support, and eventually make a run at formalizing as a new MLS team.
I do not see any of this out of my scope to drive. I believe I can use the power of social media to make it all happen. I'm just starting out as me the wanna be soccer player, and the very modest start to the team will be through my local recreational league. From there I want to take it to the next level to formalize a semi-pro team with emphasis on my own player development academy. Argentina, FYI, doesn't have a great soccer league, but what they do well is produce soccer players that are very marketable in the international leagues. That's their primary revenue stream- developing players under contract and then selling the contracts off for transfer fees. Recently, in the news, there has been a U.S. Open soccer tournament which fields ameteur teams alongside the likes of MLS teams. One of those semi-pro teams beat some MLS teams, and looking into them I see they are taking on investors and making a push to formalize. What you see happening in American soccer is the dawn of something far bigger than what it is today. Just compare it to the NFL in its earlier years when they had the AFL and NFL and finally merged for the Super Bowl. It was barely going before then, but after that it has reached heights nobody could have imagined. I think soccer is poised to do the same in the U.S. and this is the time to get in "on the ground floor" as they say- right now.
Since I plan on making my run through social media, and I openly associate my project with Ning, there's an "in" for other Ning creators to partner up with me on it. You may not be my target market of sponsors or social media consulting clients, but I can fit you into that model if you want. I think, more attractively, we can find ways to help eachother for the mutual benefit and success of our networks- without worry of discussion about money changing hands. Either way, I'm completely transparent about it. The whole thing is open for discussion right now. If you are interested in talking to me about it, all you need do is reach out to me. You will find I am exceptionally accessible.
A special thanks to anyone that has taken the time to go over this segment, learn about me, and consider the possibilities. Now I will conclude with one more post of a video about The New York Cosmos. Thanks!!