So yesterday I attended the Small Business Summit in NYC, which is remarkable on two levels: 1) that I, a confirmed introvert and hater of crowds, would pay money to attend such a thing and 2) that I (who hate cold weather -- and man was it cold yesterday -- and have repeatedly been unable to make it into NYC because of last-minute car and health problems) actually made it. Proof, I guess, that miracles do occur.
Even more remarkable: I stayed for almost the whole thing -- and kind of enjoyed myself. I even got up in front of entire ballroom of people (sober!) and asked the VP of Marketing of Dells' SMB (for small and mid-sized businesses) Group a question -- and a good one at that! (How do I know? The VP, Karen Quintos, said "That's a really good question!" as did several people who came up to me afterwards. Want to know what the question was? You'll just have to ping me to find out. But it was so good that just about every speaker thereafter addressed it. Yeah, babies, I'm good.)
So, as anyone who has ever gone to one of these things knows, it's all about NETWORKING. You know, putting your best foot and a lot of business cards forward and hoping you score a new client or at least a lead (though I think some of the people there were looking to score a lot more than that). Yeah, I can do the smile, head tilt, shake hands, "And what do you do?" thing pretty well when I'm in "the zone." My problem with all of this, though, and the reason for the title of this post is, to borrow from Rhett Butler, Frankly, my dears, I don't really give a damn.
Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of using social media and networking (both online and in person). You would think these people were getting kickbacks from Facebook and LinkedIn (and maybe they are). Speaker after speaker (and I am not exaggerating) said, "You need to have a Facebook page, a profile on LinkedIn, and a blog!" (Hey, two out of three isn't bad!) After the third or fourth person said this, I actually wrote in my notebook (Luddite that I still am), "Get Facebook page."
And then it happened. There I am, listening to yet another speaker natter on about Facebook and LinkedIn, as I am texting a buddy and wondering, as I often do, if anyone besides a mortgage broker or recruiter has ever actually made money or gotten a job or at least a solid lead from having a Facebook page or a LinkedIn profile, and this guy stands up and asks the question (which I am somewhat paraphrasing), "I have a profile on LinkedIn and a lot of contacts, but besides having a lot of names, what's the point?"
To this brilliant question, which I have been wanting to do an article on, titled "He Who Has the Most Contacts on LinkedIn Wins! (Wins what, though, nobody's sure.)," a VP of Marketing at some global internet marketing company responded first, "I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I think I have around 1500 contacts, which is probably too many, and don't really do anything with them" -- then quickly shifted course and said, "I know of thousands of success stories of people using LinkedIn!" Yet he couldn't name one.
You know what LinkedIn's great for? Showing off to a bunch of people you already know how many people you know and who you know (unless you are one of those people who totally defeat the purpose of LinkedIn by hiding your connections -- like we really care, please). Yes, I have a profile on LinkedIn, which I acquired when I was researching an article on online networking. And yes, I occasionally get and send invitations to "link in." Yes, I occasionally check out people's new connections (when I'm really bored). And yes, I direct prospective clients to my LinkedIn page so they can see recommendations of my work. And I know other people who do the same.
But besides giving people the ability to show off how self-important they are, does this "tool," LinkedIn, have any practical value? Go ahead. Prove me wrong. Btw, mortgage brokers and recruiters need not apply. I know you get leads on LinkedIn. I'm talking about the rest of us.
As to Facebook, I need to do a little more research on that one. Last time I checked, though, it was a way for 18 - 34-year-olds to show off how drunk they can get, how "cool" they are, how many "friends" they have, and find possible sex partners.
As I am older than the target demographic, definitely not cool (and don't care), have no friends any more (at least not after this post), have decided it's probably best to be monogamous (hi honey! love you!), and am not looking to market a product or service to the target demographic, I'm not sure Facebook is going to help me grow or promote my business (though I kind of like the idea of making zombies and throwing sheep at people, which you can do on Facebook apparently). Still, I might give it a shot. While I don't have any pictures of myself getting shit-faced, I do have some swimsuit shots that while not worthy of SI, could land me some new business. ; O
So what did I get out of yesterday's Small Business Summit?
1. I got to dress up and get out of the house. (Good and good.)
2. Probably a hundred or more people who, before the Summit, didn't know my name and what I do now do. (Possibly good, possibly creepy.)
3. I have a couple of business/job leads. (Again, possibly good.)
4. Had my ego stroked. (Always good.)
5. Learned about a few cool-sounding, possibly very useful websites. (Always good.)
And 6. Met Laurel Touby, the founder of Mediabistro (of which I am a member and which has proven to be a MUCH better investment than LinkedIn when it comes to generating leads and work), who I really liked and may do an article on -- and soon may be hosting a Mediabistro party here in Stepford. (EEK!)
All in all, not a bad day.
UPDATE: Since writing this post, I received an invitation to link up on LinkedIn from the gentleman I sat next to at lunch yesterday. For the record, I accepted.
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