Friday, July 3, 2009

Muddy Water

Make no mistake, one of the easiest businesses to engage in, online or otherwise, is the get rich quick scheme. You know, those are the ones so easy to recognize because they always claim that they aren't a get rich quick scheme, right before all the testimonials about how much money so- and- so made the first month. The words, "I was able to quit my job" seem to crop up a lot. Today I looked up "How to make money with Social Networking" and I found an article. Among other things I pointed out that primarily it's Myspace and Facebook making money selling ads, and not the users of same. I also commented that while plenty of people sign up to these services to try to advertise themselves and make sales-- that NOBODY signs up to Facebook and Myspace because they want to buy stuff. In fact I would say that the vast number of people with the time to hang around on free online social networking sites are doing it because it's free entertainment-- cheaper than going out in the real world.

Ever notice how daytime television ads always assume that you're either unemployed, a housewife, or a kid home sick from school ? So I challenged the blog writer (nicely) as to whether he had ever actually made a sale via social networking. To his credit I got a very well thought out response. He said he had "made money" there, and he did it by creating an ad to promote something on the same social network which he was then paid for. Doesn't that kind of make my point? Ad writers get paid, and Facebook gets paid by anybody who runs an ad. Likely he's figured out how to get paid by touting how lucrative it is to self promote businesses on these sites, which is easier than actually promoting a business which actually produces something.

Consultancy is probably the one business in the world which does not have to show responsibility for results. Honestly, I have some experience with this: a consultant gets paid to say exactly what management wants them to say-- if management is paying them. Back when I was a Union man, our Union hired a consultancy firm to examine all the jobs/wages/responsibilities of our members. They came back with results that nearly everyone was due a significant raise in pay. What a great consulting firm that was. I'm sure we recommended them to the rest of the National Union. I'd have tipped them if I could.

Back when I worked at a failing bank, the consultancy firm hired by management said that management should squeeze more work out of fewer workers. I think I made seven bucks an hour for working my ass off at that bank. No Union.

Back to my earlier point, I'm not really knocking the guy who styles himself a marketing expert, maybe he's the best at what he does. I'm not linking to him either because he didn't ask for my critique. There's just something that bugs me about this stuff. Years ago, back when I was a reporter one of my first assignments was to go around and interview all the best/most popular businesses in Bellingham, WA. The basic question was "What is the secret of your success?". Now, for a few of them the secret was that they had cheated on the survey. But for nearly all the others, it was that they strove to be the absolute best at what they did. They didn't scrimp, cut corners or just try to get by. They all counted heavily on word of mouth and repeat customers. Not a muddy issue at all-- clear waters all the way. Now, these are brick and mortar shops, so part of the issue of being seen and recognized was already done for them. Part of success was in having a good location, or at least, good enough.

So, what does it mean if you plunk your printing business down in the middle of cyberspace amongst comments like "I'm so wasted right now" "LOL, me too" "I just ate 6 tacos" --- uh, you might want to find another street corner eh? These guys aren't looking to reproduce a manuscript, a brochure, or a run of posters, but one thing I can almost guarantee you'll get: a whole bunch of people asking you to give them a job.

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