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September 12, 2007

The new gathering places

Lee responds to this article, which is just the latest lame effort in the MSM's tired meme on what a drain Social Networking Sites (SNSs) like facebook are for corporations.

You know I must agree with Lee. But here's another way of looking at it. For example, assume I decide to exhibit for my company at a trade show. I fly 3 people 1000 miles, ship 300 lbs. worth of junk to the convention center (and back), spend $2000 on the booth space, pay 3 hotel nights for each of the 3 people, and drop a grand on incidentals. Oh, and they're out of the office for a total of 72 man hours. Why would I expend these kinds of resources? Because a ton of my current and potential customers are gathering there!

Guess where else your customers are gathering? Suddenly, facebook and other SNSs are looking pretty cost effective! But SNSs are far more than just cost effective. In some ways, they're flat-out more effective PERIOD than showing up at the traditional conferences, trade shows and so on.

What we all need to learn is that the social web is the world's new gathering place. These new gathering places are simultaneously:

  • global in scope,
  • operating both in real time and asynchronously depending on your preference,
  • increasingly accessories to (or even replacements for) face-to-face communities, and
  • an unprecedented way to discover and communicate with micro-niches.
There are real relationships forming through the social web. There is real business getting done through the social web. There is real money being made through the social web.

And there are real opportunity costs if you fail to get engaged.

The social web is not a replacement for face-to-face community, but it is a powerful complement to community.



Anonymous said...

Ben, you nailed it. On the other side of it, when you go to exhibit at a conference you also need to take into account what your potential customers are spending to be there (for registration, hotels, transportation, etc.) That's money they don't have available to buy your products or services.

As you say, social networking sites aren't a replacement for face-to-face. But they're clearly a viable alternative for some situations, and can make those in-person meetings better.

For example, when I do finally meet you in person, we will have a lot to talk about. No need for chit-chat and ice-breaking, because we've gotten to know each other through Facebook and Twitter.

Anyway, this was a great post, and it's nice to put some figures on the other side of these bogus studies that look only at costs and not opportunity costs.

Mike said...

First of all, you need to tell our IT people that they shouldn't block Facebook. After the most recent bandwidth crackdown, I had to lobby to get C-SPAN reinstated!

Also, you're going to give the meetings and conventions people tummyaches, so cut it out, OK?

Ben Martin, CAE said...

@Mike: Have them call me, I'll straighten them out.
@Lee: Great points again, Lee.