I read today a blog post by Terrance Barkan, CAE at Social Networking And Media Association titled "Is Facebook a failed business model? What associations and businesses need to consider." and the comment posting there was difficult enough to find that I decided to just respond here instead of there (don’t get me started on comment moderation again, it’s just not pretty). I’ve never met Terrance by the way, I look forward to it though.
Terrance seems to focus on associations as a niche but even then, I think he missed a couple of bullet points in his article.
He lays out in the article the premise that the lack of a sustainable revenue model in a social media community platform is a sign that the platform is not sustainable. He trots out the tired argument that if Facebook and Twitter do not find their own monetization models, how can we as users of those platforms, expect to leverage them to our own end? He points out exceptions of major brands like Dell have already identified how they are making money off a Twitter presence. I am not sure the Dell situation presents a good guideline for a smaller to medium businesses however, but the social media marketing model itself is proven in both an anecdotal and metrics driven environments.
The point I think Terrance was trying to make is to not pin your hopes or too deeply embed a strategy around only one of these free services that might not be here in the future. What he fails to suggest is that a strategy like this is ‘analysis paralysis’; a common symptom in many companies that are so afraid of making a poor investment that they make no investment at all – until it too late; like after the competition has moved ahead of you or a smaller more nimble organization takes the first mover advantage.
Verdict – Terrance only slightly missed this one. The commentary might have been much better received if he has put a timeframe on it instead of extending it out to infinity. Using the existing social media infrastructure to reach out and connect is an important strategy. Terrace seems to be suggesting that like web strategies of old, you can ‘set and forget’ your presence – not true in social media or community building. It takes regular participation and activity to make it work.
I followed the links on Terrance to GlobalStrat.org and found a white paper I like that he published for associations on community building and I really liked it, so he seems to have an idea on the topic – maybe it’s just this post then.