A very disturbing discovery — or I made a mistake

A notice that I received on Facebook last week was incredibly disturbing to me. It made me stop and think about how the latest and greatest social media and marketing technologies are contributing to the destruction of the information sharing, networking, and all-around personal connections that we once had when the industry was young.

This may just be my opinion, (read all and see what you think) but I feel that as a result, social media is taking over the control of what we should be in control of and it is destroying the industry for those of us who are small business owners.

A bit of history for those of you who are relatively new:
Way back when I started my gift basket business (almost 25 years ago), I and others like me discovered AOL and Prodigy bulletin boards as a means of communicating with others across the country who were venturing into an industry that was still new and exciting. There was one magazine (Gift Basket Review) and two conventions each year (holiday and summer) all operated by Debra Paulk, who was also a gift basket company owner. Gradually, forums were introduced and we all flocked to them. We each grew our own business in our own unique way but we shared what we learned and learned more from each other. It was an exciting time and the industry was greeting the world with a united front.

Fast forward to today. . . We have facebook, twitter linkedin, pinterest, youtube, podcasts, webinars with more ways to supposedly market our business being introduced each day. People join Facebook groups just because they see a paid ad for the group or because they see something on a friend’s page and have no idea what the group is about and have no plans to be more than just a number. I’ve had people ask to join our group who are members of almost a thousand groups. There is no way on Facebook for me to tell if they have any involvement at all with the industry. What does this tell you about Facebook groups?

My own email box is jampacked with emails every day from eager marketeers trying to sell me some new way to get the word out — something new to learn how to use — and something more to distract me from what my business is really all about — selling gifts and gift baskets and providing information to others in the industry.

This information overload is taking up more and more time and creating more and more confusion that isn’t accomplishing much of anything. Am I the only one feeling this? I don’t think so.

I don’t often say, “I made a mistake,” but today I’m going to say it. When we closed down the forum and moved our communication over to a Facebook group, I fell for the reasoning that more people would participate because they are on Facebook daily and would see the posts on their homepage threads. Tain’t true! It isn’t true because more people aren’t really seeing those posts.

What most people don’t realize is that unless you actively participate in a Facebook group on a regular basis (and that means posting and sharing) as well as specifying in your favorites that a group is a favorite, you aren’t likely to see any or few of the posts that are made. This is even worse than forgetting to log into a forum and missing what is posted there. At least you made that decision not to remember instead of Facebook making it for you. This was confirmed to me today by a lady who joined the Facebook group seven months ago and sent me a private message asking what the group was all about because a post I made today was the first one that she had seen in her facebook thread since she joined.

So I decided to run a test. I asked everyone who actually saw a post to simply respond “I read it.” Out of 457 members of the group, only 72 actually saw the post in their homepage thread. The results were a little better for our VIP group. Even though we currently have almost 100 VIP members, only 37 actually joined the Facebook group. Out of that 37, 26 saw the post. Others may see it later but the response has almost immediately stopped just a few hours after that post was made. If it was ever shown on the other member’s threads, it has most likely scrolled off already.

Did I make a mistake? You tell me. What is the answer? I’m asking you. Personally, I feel that it is going back to the basics, looking at all the latest and greatest sales pitches for new technology with more skepticism than just jumping in and adding things like Periscope, Snapchat, etc to our overloaded marketing programs. Heck, they are coming so fast that I can’t even access most of these things and don’t have the time to learn how to use them so I doubt if my customers can.

Maybe I’m an old fogey — too ingrained in the past to learn something new. But I suspect there are many of you out there who feel the same.

I’m not going to suddenly make the decision to go back to the basics — emails, newsletters, forums, etc without some feedback from those of you who are serious about the industry.

Whether you are a startup who is confused by what you should do or you are an established business owner with some time in the industry under your belt, this should be important to you. Whether you are loyal to a competing group (and there shouldn’t be competition among the information providers in our industry) and are just reading this to see what is going on, you should be concerned as well and this invitation is extended to you as well. Feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone that you know whom you think may be interested — even if it’s just to throw back their head laughing at this ridiculous old woman.

I am writing this as a blog post because it gives you the opportunity to respond with your comments. I am inviting all of you, who are serious and perhaps feel the same way that I do, to become a loose committee with me to brainstorm what we can and should do. Brainstorming is exactly that — don’t hesitate to say something even if it sounds ridiculous at the time. It may not be as ridiculous as you think.

I’ve had my say. Now it’s your turn if you really care.

Joyce Reid