How Social Media
Skills Are Changing Business Forever
By Francis Wade
Friday, October 16, 2015.
Is social media just a passing
fad that mature business-people can safely ignore? Is it all just a waste of
time? Does lasting, meaningful social activity only take place in person; not
over the Internet?
Recently, a Kingston-based friend of mine was intent on
taking a destination vacation in the USA with his extended family of nine. He
booked 10 days in a motel, thinking that was his best option. However, after he
Googled the destination, he discovered AirBnB, the short-term rental service.
A search of the neighbourhood revealed that he could get a beautiful
private house in the same location for half the price.
But there was a catch. He learned that AirBnB landlords are
not obligated to rent their property to anyone who can afford it. Instead, they
only approve people they trust. How does someone who has never met you and
lives thousands of miles away come to entrust you, a stranger, with one of
their prized possessions? The answer might be obvious – social media.
If you are an AirBnB renter who has never used the service
before (and, therefore, has never been rated on the website by a landlord ) you
are an unknown entity. In order to reduce the risk, the service encourages
property owners to do something unusual. They learn how to check you out
online, via sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and company websites. Your
public presence on social media, in particular, helps determine whether or not
you represent a high risk – the kind of tenant who will ruin their home.
In this case, my friend had a problem. Porn hackers had just
taken over his Facebook account, forcing him to start a new one. To a stranger,
it would appear as if he had just joined the social network a week ago… a big
The answer was simple. He needed to beef up his Linkedin
profile so that prospective landlords would come to see him as a competent,
trusted person. Unfortunately, up until then, his profile looked like an orphan
– a place he had visited only once or twice. We added a headshot, biographical
data and details of his work history.
In a day or two, the landlord signaled her satisfaction and
the subsequent vacation was a total success.
The fact is, a weak online presence may not elicit critiques
from your close business associates here in Jamaica. They, like you, may argue
“they don’t have the time” to “play around” with social media. Listening mostly
to each other, you may all be convinced that it’s unimportant. It may be an
echo chamber: a comfort zone in which your friends are just saying and doing
the same things.
You may be mistaken in thinking that it doesn’t matter.
Obviously, your lack of a profile communicates something to the landlords on
AirBnB. The broader question for business-people is “Who else might care?”
A while back, my wife received a message from a man who was
coming to Jamaica from Europe to do some business. He wanted to meet her and
possibly engage her services in the future.
A quick check on Linkedin raised suspicions: his profile
was also an orphan written in utterly vague language. It took some time, but
deeper Google searches showed that his company had a reputation for running a
particular scam. Apparently, they knew how to enter a country and extract the
information they needed for free, before selling it to their clients.
My wife declined the meeting.
You may be comfortable with the unclear image you are
creating online, but there may be opportunities to receive discounts that are
passing you by. Also, others outside Jamaica may be ignoring your offers to
engage, or making sure they are too busy to take your call.
Social media use for business purposes requires a distinct
skill, but don’t wait for the classroom training to be offered. These platforms
are evolving too rapidly.
Last year I picked up an ebook that described in detail
the skills required to make effective use of the latest version of
Linkedin. I was shocked. Unknown to me, the social network had evolved. Within
a few weeks, I picked up hundreds of new connections in one of my key markets
By contrast, Facebook business pages have recently been
rendered impotent. Only paid advertisements are actually making their way to
fan’s news feeds, forcing many companies’ strategies to change.
The landscape is changing so fast that the rules must be
re-learned every few months. That’s why you simply cannot set up a social media
unit and relax. These are now executive skills that cannot be explained in the
abstract – they must be experienced first-hand.
In fact, they have become far from optional. They represent
a must-have for the business person who is serious and global-minded.
Francis Wade is the
author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management
consultant. To receive a free summary of links to his past articles, send email