Unintended consequences happen. I am known for my blogging (at least according to LinkedIn), and also known for the stereotypical struggles of the modern entrepreneur. Considering all of the things I could be working on, I’m asked why I spend time blogging. On a simple, objective analysis of costs and benefits it can seem that blogging, and writing, isn’t the best use of my time; and yet, things happen that remind me of how little control we have over our lives, how luck plays a role, and how adding value to the world can be returned in unexpected ways. I had a phone call today that was basically a wrong number that might work out right.
Blogging and social media in general are part of the modern landscape. They have non-digital analogues, but many prefer the previous means of communication; especially for businesses. Stuffing envelopes, making cold calls, hanging posters, and shmoozing at cocktail parties or the country club still work well enough that many people rely on them for their businesses. For me, they cost too much time and money. I’d rather spend the time on Facebook, Twitter, trading emails and chats (no texts, though, my phone isn’t that new). It may look frivolous to some, but it is a way to communicate with people who care, rather than deluging crowds and hoping for a response. Socializing through social media can be fun. Sending out newsletters is a lot of work and can come across as spam.
And yet, while my consulting business has grown (frequently in unexpected ways), the total revenues aren’t sufficient to appease the Internal Revenue Service. So, why spend time blogging?
Then I got today’s call. Skip the suspense. No money was transferred – but a contact was made.
You probably know the feeling. You get a call from an unknown number and wonder if it is spam. Who’s trying to sell something to me this time? I actually enjoy those calls because I back sell my services to them.
Them: “Hi, we’d like to interest you in our service which we know you need.”
Me: “I’m so glad to hear from you. Let me tell you about what I can do for you. Have you seen my books on Amazon?”
It makes for some wickedly fun phone calls. Today’s call, however, was completely different.
Paraphrased because I don’t do transcripts of calls. That might be icky.
Him: “Is this Tom Trimbath?”
Him: “I’m trying to figure out something about my Make Me Move price on Zillow and it isn’t making sense.”
Me inside my head: “Why’s he calling me?”
Me: “What’s the problem?”
Him: “I’ve put in all the data, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”
Me: “Yeah. That can be frustrating. But, why did you call me?”
Him: “Well, I when I couldn’t find an answer or a contact number on Zillow’s site I did a search and you came up.”
A few years ago I filled out Zillow’s Make Me Move price information. It is basically a way to say, “Hey, my house isn’t on the market; but if someone walked up and handed me this much money, sure I’d sell.” Briefly back in the summer, Zillow’s estimate of my house’s value exceeded my Make Me Move price. No one made an offer, but a friend who filled out the information did get some traffic. I took the opportunity to blog about my experience, partly to see if it would generate any interest, but mostly to describe how yet another industry is shifting.
The caller found my name because, surprisingly, I’m one of the few who’ve actually blogged about Zillow’s feature. When he couldn’t find help from Zillow, I was next in line – simply because I blogged about it. As we closed the call I pointed out to him that one service I provide is helping people sort through technical issues. It isn’t my main emphasis, which is project management for creatives and entrepreneurs, but I’m happy to help because I enjoy helping people. Launch a Google Hangout, or some similar video conferencing, and I could work him through the issue, or at least make progress. He sounded encouraged. Whether he calls back or not, he at least knows he has an ally that’s more responsive than the company he thought he’d called.
I teach classes in Social Media, not because I am an expert (I’m not), but because I appreciate the frustrations of modern communications. I don’t have all of the answers, but I can help most people progress. (Check my Events page for classes and workshops or my Consulting page for personal attention.) Attendees frequently want to know the direct cause and effect of using social media. It is an appealing notion, but it is no more valid in social media that it was with socializing or advertising. We put the messages out there, make ourselves available, and hope. Hope sounds like a lousy strategy, but it underlies every campaign, old and new.
One of my clients has just begun blogging. At the beginning, blogging, sharing, tweeting, etc can seem like shouting into a dark, empty stadium. Echoes are all you get. Audiences arrive at their own timing, and in their own way. Growth starts slowly with friends, family, and your existing network. Compound interest kicks in (hopefully), which finance and patient types appreciate, but it takes time. After a few months of my client blogging, they still couldn’t point to any extra orders as a direct result. Patience. Patience. As I was about to leave, though; they pointed out that since they’ve been blogging their web site traffic has already exceeded last year’s traffic. Something is moving, but who knows how long it will take? But it is progress in the right direction.
I may have a new client for a short gig. I may only have a story. But I also know that today’s call could be an introduction to someone who could need more significant help. Today’s call could be an introduction a network of people and organizations that can use my services. There’s no way to know except to be patient and continue and hope. He called a number expecting to get Zillow and got me. He was trying to get the attention of a multi-billion dollar company, couldn’t find anyone there to talk to, and got my business and me. The cost to me: time and a bit of creative energy. The benefit to both of us: knowing that someone is out there and that questions and answers can be matched.
We can’t know the impact we have on others lives. The world is too complex for that. But occasionally we, or at least I, get a response that encourages me to continue trying to connect. After one of these posts that I wrote without much thought (and almost no editing), someone wrote back to thank me because they needed to read those words written with that emotion at just that time. Why do I blog? With a response like that, how could I not?
PS Saturday, November 14th, I’ll be part of a panel of authors talking about the realities of writing and publishing in the modern world, which includes using social media to get the message out. Check the link for details about the event at Freeland Library. Contact me if you have an event where you want to me to relay some of my stories about writing, social media, and communicating in the modern world. The old rules apply, but in new ways.